Playing a track on SoundCloud is never as straightforward as it may seem. Once non-skippable audio promos subside to gift you 30 seconds and an abrupt ending that reminds you of the firm’s perpetually iffy situation with the industry as a whole, the real fun can begin as it catapults you down a mesmerising rabbit hole of what happens when you give seamless distribution and budget creation tools to the most idiosyncratic budding musicians. Entire self-sufficient niches have established themselves, attracting new prey in this very fashion, and singular hits, especially in the dance world, have flourished from silent launches on the platform, but few lasting trends have managed to escape through into more mainstream vistas. PC Music is ready to be the exception.
A London label specialising in releases from a sizable gamut of aliases (easyFun, Spinee, Dux Content, Lipgloss Twins) that more often than not trace themselves back to founding father A. G. Cook, PC Music’s string of free downloads doused concoctions of pulsating club-minded basslines and vigorous distortions of reliable pop tropes with kitsch WordArt vomit-adorned visuals like a goldfish in a wine glass for Cook’s ‘Beautiful’ and a shower of diamond GIFs befitting only of websites of a certain vintage for Hannah Diamond’s ‘Pink And Blue.’ Last year, we summarised the aesthetic as “glittering sherbet vapidity.” Pitchfork described a remix from Cook as “[writhing]like a wad of cellophane.” Vice’s question was more salient: “Are they really the worst thing ever to happen to dance music? No. They’re fucking great.”
Critics weren’t the only ones to cotton on to what was occurring. Madonna gave clan affiliate SOPHIE, who released the unnerving and sporadically incredible texture-challenging compilation Product at the tail of 2015, input with Diplo and friends on ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ from her most recent record. Charli XCX, enlightened by a Cook remix of ‘Doing It,’ welcomed SOPHIE, Diamond, Cook, and Jodie Harsh on board for the intense four-track Vroom Vroom EP last February. By the year’s end, Cook had been officially appointed as her creative director and her return towards more radio-tolerated territory (‘After The Afterparty’) retained SOPHIE’s delicate touch with Stargate’s more traditional pop flair. A team-up with Columbia Records inches them ever closer to making a star out of bespectacled phenom Danny L Harle, whose recent releases have verged on long-lost relics of rave heydays by trading Alvin’s squeaks for Carly Rae Jepsen and Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek. In announcing the partnership, even the language was on-brand: “A NEW, PERFECT BREED OF MAJOR LABEL. A NEW, HIGHLY ADVANCED POP WEAPON,” read a statement. “CONCURRENT TO THIS DEVELOPMENT WE WILL CONTINUE TO ENFORCE A FAST PACED PRODUCTION LINE OF LAPLANDERS AND LIFESTYLES, SUPS AND SECRET MIXES, WANNABES, WARLORDS AND WESTERN BEATS. A MULTI-TIER ATTACK EXPOSING THE RADICAL DNA OF CHART MUSIC, AND THE HEART AND SOUL BEHIND EVERY LAB CREATION.”
Where 2016 was the year for the mainstream to sip from Caribbean influences and rob sampled voices of their souls by sticking them over every pseudo-drop on the charts, PC Music’s unabashed adoration of pop’s fundamental components – joy and ingenuity – provides a modicum of promise for a year that began with Ed Sheeran trying to write for Rihanna and ending up with Sia’s ‘Cheap Thrills.’ With a potion at the ready to splash around thanks to their in-house energy drink/popstar hybrid – QT’s ‘Hey QT,’ produced by SOPHIE and Cook, was later released in $20 can form – and revered pop institutions embracing the movement, 2017 will be the when for Cook and the gang to burrow out and deposit their elixir atop pop’s stagnating conveyor.