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|Founder||A. G. Cook|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
PC Music is a record label and art collective based in London and run by producer A. G. Cook. It was founded and made its first song available on SoundCloud in 2013. The label is known for its surreal or exaggerated take on pop music, often featuring pitch-shifted, feminine vocals and bright, synthetic textures. Artists on its roster include Hannah Diamond, GFOTY, Life Sim, and Danny L Harle.
PC Music has been characterized as embracing the aesthetics of advertising, consumerism, and corporate branding. Its artists have often devised personas often inspired by cyberculture. The label has inspired both praise and criticism from journalists, and has been called "polarizing".
The label functions as a collective in which acts frequently collaborate with each other. Many of the acts are aliases, obscuring the identities and number of artists on the label. Early on, the label kept tight control over its branding and limited its interaction with journalists, and as its profile grew, Cook declined to engage with press, described as a sort of Berry Gordy figure within the group. Vice magazine said that PC Music's acts are best understood not as living people but as "meticulously planned and considered long-running art pieces…living installations who put out music." Cook mentioned preference for "recording people who don't normally make music and treating them as if they're a major label artist." Rather than engaging in extended promotional campaigns, the label continually announces new acts. Each develops a persona that is conveyed through Internet slang and cartoon imagery.
Cook had previously worked on Gamsonite, a "pseudo-label" and blog collecting his early collaborations, among other projects while studying music at Goldsmiths, University of London. He founded PC Music in August 2013, as a way of embracing an A&R role. Within a year the label had published forty songs on SoundCloud where, as of September 2014, some of its songs had accumulated over 100,000 listens. It has not released a physical single, and its first paid download did not come until the November 2014 release of Hannah Diamond's "Every Night". QT's "Hey QT" single was also released in 2014, on XL Recordings, with production from Cook and PC Music-affiliate Sophie.
In March 2014, the label made their live debut in the United States when Cook, Sophie and QT performed at Hype Hotel during South by Southwest. The following year, in March 2015, several members of the collective appeared at a label showcase at South by Southwest. Cook described it as a "rebirth moment" for the group, moving toward functioning as a real record label. Shortly after, they released their first official compilation album, titled PC Music Volume 1. On 8 May 2015, PC Music artists performed at BRIC House in Brooklyn, New York as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival, to premiere Pop Cube, "a multimedia reality network".
On 21 October 2015, the label announced on Facebook a partnership with major record label Columbia Records. The first release through this partnership was an EP from Danny L Harle. In December 2015 PC Music released the single "Only You", a collaboration between A. G. Cook and the Chinese pop star Chris Lee, with a music video directed by Kinga Burza.
On 18 November 2016, PC Music released Volume 2, a compilation featuring most of the label's roster. A review in The Guardian praised it for being "more beautiful and progressive than ever before" and proof that "Cook and his gang are the cleverest, most thoughtful people in British pop".
The label has released music with a consistent sound that Clive Martin, writing for Vice, described as "A playful composite of disregarded sounds and genres". Lanre Bakare, writing for The Guardian, identified the music's elements as "the huge synth blasts favoured by Eurodance chart-botherers such as Cascada, grime's sub-bass, and happy hardcore's high-pitched vocal range". The styles and influences of music incorporated include bubblegum dance, Balearic trance, wonky and electro house. Cook cites Korean & Japanese pop music and gyaru culture, as well as the production work of Max Martin and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. His production involves layering discordant sounds on top of each other to produce chaotic mixes, similar to the techniques used in black MIDI music. Abrupt shifts in timbre and rhythm are used to create multiple perspectives of a personality. Cook also indirectly cites American musician Conlon Nancarrow as a source of inspiration in the PC Music Pop Cube Trailer 1
PC Music's songwriting often deals with consumerism as a theme. In their take on haul videos, Lipgloss Twins include references to fashion and makeup brands. Vocals on the label's mix for DIS Magazine reflect various forms of marketing: producer ID tags, film trailers, and product placement for a sponsor. The label brings in inexperienced singers to record its songs. It thoroughly processes the vocals, shifting the pitch upward or chopping it to use as a rhythmic element. These distortions create a post-ironic representation of consumerism, money, and sex.
PC Music's aesthetic combines elements of cuteness, camp, and kawaii, though often, as music critic Maurice Marion points out for Rare Candy, with a sinister, Lynchian undertone achieved by dissonant inversions and caustic harmonization. Critics likened the label to Ryan Trecartin in its irregular pacing, "feminine appropriation", and valley girl slang. The use of pitch shifting, image manipulation, and costumes may also serve as a form of drag. This blurs the distinctions between binary genders and allows male artists to mask their identities. In a piece for Vice, Ryan Bassil suggested that PC Music's style allows for a more candid expression of emotions.
The label has been embraced as a more feminine response to dance music subculture. The availability of music software has allowed for the spread of high-production dance music by independent musicians, particularly on SoundCloud. PC Music often exaggerates the homogenized, high-fidelity aesthetics of these songs. Vogue deputy editor Alex Frank commented that the overt manipulation of cultural references showcased a cynical sense of humour, creating an insular approach to making dance music during a period of house revival.
As PC Music became more prominent in 2014, the reaction to it was often described as "divisive". Joe Moynihan, writing in Fact, remarked that "PC Music have, in just over a year, released some of the most compelling pop music in recent memory." The label's feminine aesthetic has been criticized as disingenuous or appropriative. The distortions in its music can fall into the uncanny valley and have an alienating effect on listeners. Some critics have found its high-tempo trance sound artless or aggravating.
PC Music received accolades in several 2014 year-end summaries. Dazed included A. G. Cook at number 12 in their "Dazed 100"; Fact named PC Music the best label of 2014; The Huffington Post included PC Music at number 3 in their "Underrated Albums - 2014"; Resident Advisor included PC Music at number 4 in their "Top Labels of The Year" in 2014; and Tiny Mix Tapes included it in their "Favorite 15 Labels of 2014". Spin magazine named PC Music its "Trend of the Year" for 2014.
PC Music have produced a number of label focused showcases since their inception. After a brief showcase at SXSW in 2015, on 8 May 2015, PC Music launched a "multimedia reality network" called 'Pop Cube'. An event in conjunction with the network was created and became part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival in New York, which quickly sold out. In May 2016, PC Music presented 'Pop Cosmos' at the Scala in London, featuring Danny L Harle, Hannah Diamond, GFOTY, A. G. Cook, Felicita, EasyFun and Spinee. In July 2016 PC Music held a new one-off event called 'Pop City' at Create in Los Angeles. As well as scheduled performances from PC Music performers, the show featured guests, including Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX, and QT. On the 405 webzine, PC Music’s live shows have been described as being surrounded by a care-less authentic aura and have been recognised for their "forward-thinking fearlessness to push pop music into new and daring areas".