Transmissions from the online underground.
Today we posted a piece by Adam Harper on the emergent "online underground," a term used to describe the generation of producers who have been gradually reshaping the idea of what it means to make and release electronic music. Harper argues that this movement has uncanny echoes of the early punk scene: "the self-releasing revolution, the provocative aesthetics and the rise of a new generation." More specifically, Harper is referring to the groundswell of artists and labels whose music exists almost exclusively on sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp, and whose visual and sonic identity is largely informed by the internet itself. This shift in thinking has seen producers sidestepping established music industry models and embracing the online platform, often building huge followings through nothing more than a basic web presence. The most visible names to come out of this "scene" are probably A.G. Cook and his PC Music stable. Both are associated with hyper-glossy forms of pop and club music with conceptual slants, playing with ideas connected to gender, consumerist culture and poor taste. (Along with Cook's collaborator SOPHIE, they're also the most controversial thing to hit electronic music in recent memory.)
Ben Aqua is an Austin-based DJ, producer, visual artist and label owner who embodies the online underground's attitude and approach. He runs his #FEELINGS label across multiple online platforms, and releases music—either for free or at low cost—that mashes high-intensity clubs styles. If you're new to the label, we recommend starting with Lotic's More Than Friends EP, #FEELINGS's first release, and then moving through Rabit's grimy textures, Supraman's vibrant footwork and poolboy92's slinky Jersey club. As Harper explains in the piece, the music of the online underground often arrives as bulk transmissions of weirdo sounds, from inter-connected crews and artists. It's therefore best to just dive in, click around and see what sticks.
As an online underground primer, Aqua's RA podcast is right on the money. It's fast, slippery and wilfully garish, blending tracks by key players like A. G. Cook and SOPHIE with music from his own #FEELINGS stable.
What have you been up to recently?
I just released my 4C1D EP on #FEELINGS and premiered a music video for the EP's title track on Thump. I've been baking a lot of homemade bread lately, mmmm.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was compiled in Ableton Live at my studio in Austin on a warm, humid summer evening, next to a sleeping puppy.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The mix features a handful of internet-based artists from all over the reality sphere who I feel are pushing club music into fresh and somewhat zany unknown territory. Crews such as PC Music, Priz Tats, DIS Magazine, Activia Benz, TEKLIFE, Booty Tune, Hyperboloid and Main Course are experimenting with exciting, new aesthetic formats. Most of the tracks I picked are free downloads on SoundCloud and Bandcamp, and are not available on iTunes, Beatport, etc.
I hope the mix emulates the experience of randomly surfing the web late at night, stumbling upon some amazing free music from people you've never heard before, and quickly jumping from track to track in a maniacal, ecstatic frenzy. My DJ sets have been moving toward this direction lately: lots of unexpected quick cuts and BPM changes, with a focus on melody-driven tracks and hybrid, high-energy club genres.
Why did you start #FEELINGS?
#FEELINGS started out as a warehouse party I was throwing in Austin called FEELINGS around 2010-2011. Around that time, the artist Lotic (who also lived in Austin) approached me with some really spicy demos that he wasn't sure how to release, and I was like, "Wait, these are amazing, let's release this." I slapped the # on the party name, and #FEELINGS was born somewhat spontaneously in December of 2011, with Lotic's More Than Friends EP.
This led to a realization of how many of my friends in Texas were similarly engaged in really next level experiments with club music—artists like Rabit, Ynfynyt Scroll, HYPEHEADZ and Supraman—and I wanted their passion to be more well known. I had, and still have, a strong desire to put Texas and internet-based artists on the map in the global club music scene. Thus, #FEELINGS. We're 13 releases in now, working with artists all over the world. It's purty darn cute.
Do you see the way you and your contemporaries operate as a rejection of the traditional music industry model?
I think of life and existence as a playground of fantasy, imagination and experimentation. Musicians have the resources to create commercial-quality music in hours, then instantly upload their creations and inspire a rabid worldwide audience within seconds—with zero help from major labels. I'm so happy that artists are taking advantage of this insane luxury. It's taking DIY culture and the quality of art and music to a whole new magical level.
What are you up to next?
I just finished official remixes for Austin artists Balmorhea and Soft Vision that are dropping soon. I'm finishing up the next batch of #FEELINGS releases, which I'm very excited about: poolboy92's Lips Remixes, a full-length album from Norrit, an EP from Joe Howe (Sound Pellegrino) and my Ultimate Reality EP that features a remix from YACHT, among others. I'm also a visual artist and regularly update benaqua.org with my latest work of many flavors.