The Rise of PC Music

Denis Mardesich, A&E Editor

In 2013 British musician A. G. Cook founded the record label PC Music, and with it he spearheaded a new sound in pop music that is slowly taking over the underground.

PC Music is known for its refreshing and compelling take on pop music. Ditching the boring production that pop has been plagued by, instead adapting an eclectic electronic production style. It is known for its lush synthesizers that vary from deeply atmospheric to harsh volume. The production also embraces and takes influence from many facets of internet culture.

“That aesthetic can be summed up as a grab bag of metallic pings, rubbery zoings, helium-soaked Chipmunk vocals, trance stabs, airhorns, hardstyle kick drums, happy hardcore, Eskibeat, K-pop, J-Pop, vocaloid, 8-bit, black MIDI, 808s and Heartbreak, the Windows 95 startup chime, and a healthy dose of James Ferraro‘s Far Side Virtual for good measure.” Says Pitchfork writerPhillip Sherburne, discussing PC Music’s unique sound.

Genre-wise, PC-Music is known for blending pop music with strong feminine vocals with different aspects of electronic music. The vocalists on PC Music are known for their strong voices that are often distorted and altered with various vocal effects. This blend of bubblegum-bass, electronic, and pop music has attracted artists of many genres into the fold of PC Music.

Album cover for Hannah Diamond’s recent album released on PC Music, Reflections.

As a label, PC Music doesn’t function in a typical way. It serves as more of a collective, a shared creative space where artists can openly collaborate to create music together. This leads to artists like A. G. Cook producing a large amount of music on the label, including Hannah Diamond’s most recent release, Reflections.

One of the things that have popularized PC Music is the label collaborating with artists who aren’t technically on the label. Artists like Charli XCX, SOPHIE, and Dorian Electra frequently collaborate with PC Music. A. G. Cook has notable production credits on many of these artist’s projects. Including Charli XCX’s 2019 album Charli.

The label has also gained notoriety for releasing remixes of many songs from the underground world of pop, including 100 gecs’ Money Machine. These remixes have been known for their strange and experimental takes on pop music, continuing a common theme for the label.

Although the label is known for collaborating for artists who aren’t signed to it, it still does sport a lot of talent on it. Artists signed to the label include A. G. Cook, Hannah Diamond, GFOTY, and Gus Lobban of Kero Kero Bonito. All these artists include the typical PC Music production style, however they still managed to have a unique sound.

Critically, PC Music has been praised by critics for its compelling and refreshing take on pop. However some critics aren’t fans. For some listeners the sound presented by PC Music, typically it’s more experimental segments, are hard to listen to and don’t appeal to the average listener. This is the main factor that is keeping PC Music in the underground, but as mainstream pop continues to keep taking risks, it might not be too unachievable for PC Music to make a name for itself on the charts.

What makes PC Music so important and influential though, is their strong representatiion of genderqueer artists and the acceptance of their strong musical ability. The people at PC Music are showing that the pop sound doesn’t have to conform to gender norms. Even if some don’t agree with this, and it keeps PC Music from getting a large audience that other pop labels manage to get. 

Musician SOPHIE has become known for not only continuing to expand on the PC Music sound, but also for her trans identity.

However, some disagree with the PC Music aesthetic. It has been criticized for its vocals following a feminine aesthetic. Some found this feminine style to be offensive, and it was called “feminine appropriation” by the Fader. This has caused a lot of controversy for PC Music, and even more has came from the trangender identity of frequent collaborator SOPHIE.

This doesn’t keep PC Music from making great music though. They represent a wonderful left turn in the formulaic and boring style of pop music that has become tiring in recent years. Hopefully more can learn from this unique style and experimentation will be embraced in the current soundscape of popular music.