Sunday, 29 December 2013

Pattern Recognition: Indigo Beats

Pattern Recognition Vol. 4 is on the convergence of a number of beat-making trends in the online underground (cloud rap, 'trap,' witch house, vaporwave) into something euphoric, hi-tech, ethereal, based, weird and diverse I gently dub 'indigo beats' (click here to read). As well as doing an overview on 'beats the genre' and what it's been doing in recent years, the piece takes in several great lesser-known artists that are worth a look including Contact Lens, Horse Head, Party Trash, BLK SMK and more (and since this piece went up, the style has solidified further). In order to best introduce you to these artists I did a mix to accompany the piece, which you can download:

Since the piece went up, several more albums in the stylistic vicinity have been released, such as Blank Banshee's Blank Banshee 1, BLK SMK's 110, Horse Head's 3D and Spirit Armor, Party Trash's Scrapped (some tracks more than others) and MiaMee's Ghost Boy (even Burial's Rival Dealer sounded kinda like this stuff in places). The name 'indigo beats' comes from the generally blue and/or purple coloration on the covers of the releases and/or the Bandcamp pages, which parallels the music's mixing of 'blue sky' digital and seapunk sounds (blue) and cloud rap (purple, naturally):

Contact Lens - Free Throw Banquet (currently unavailable)

Some extracts:

Cut open modern popular music culture, squeeze it, boil it, turn it upside down and shake it, and you get beats. Hip hop instrumentals, riddims, productions, selected ambient works, call them what you like, beat music can be found everywhere... Today, this extraordinarily versatile and accessible genre—no, genre’s too narrow a word: medium—is practically the default setting of pop music’s base. Where in the 20th century, bored or fame-hungry youth would join a jazz or rock band, today they make or use beats...

But the clear ruler of post-vape crystal beats (or whatever) is Contact Lens... Free Throw Banquet is a different animal, finding a new sound and mining it capably. It might be the wallpaper music album of the year—it’s warm, masterfully crafted, very personable, very now, and has a sense of humor without being annoying or insincere. Sonically, it favors reverby e-piano and chiming synth patches and TR-808, like all the tech-company sound-logos of circa 1993-2003 got together in a hot tub. I say this, but the album isn’t retro or an arty conceptual jolly—it’s beat-making. No giant sea-view mansion should be without it, especially if said mansion is really a drab sofa in the suburbs...

Future beats, then, might be converging somewhere beyond the established formulations of cloud rap, vaporwave, trap and witch house, as restless producers use their old tools for new purposes. Most of the producers mentioned above show a tendency to avoid heavy sample use and classic organic warmth in favor of unconventional electronic textures with a strikingly emotional and blissful resonance, together with an inclination towards considerable heterogeneity in technique from track to track, each one constituting its own little world...

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