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  • Xavier Farrow-Francis

PC Music’s Futurist Utopia, and How it Changed Pop Music Forever

Reflected by Xavier Farrow-Francis (any/all)


In June of 2023, the UK record label and experimental pop music collective PC Music made a shocking announcement: they would no longer be releasing any new material. While there may have been subtle hints leading up to this decision, it still came as a stab to many fans. Since 2013, the likes of A. G. Cook, Danny L Harle, Hannah Diamond, and SOPHIE (just to name a few) have been slowly shifting the landscape of pop music. Through their experimental and hyper-digital approach, PC Music crafted a unique, futuristic and forward looking sound that no one had quite heard before.


Bursting onto the scene in 2013, the indie and underground music world quickly caught on to the daringly brash aesthetics of the collective. PC Music defined themselves to the media with bright, poppy hyperfemininity and cuteness, while warping, and altering that super-sweet, girly product. These themes, however, became confused for a postmodern brand of satire, a critique of pop culture and consumerism. While it’s certainly interesting to look at what PC Music was putting out through this lens, it risks depicting their art in a disingenuous way; PC Music as critics, rather than appreciators of pop culture trying to contribute to it in a new and fresh way.


Regardless of this (mis)interpretation, PC Music and their many collaborators would go on to influence the culture over their lifespan. Their impact can be seen in the genre explosion of hyperpop (made famous by 100 gecs or Dorian Electra), which PC Music essentially spearheaded. But it doesn’t just stop there… Let me introduce you to some of the label's key figures and affiliates, and explore how their unique sounds and personalities have made their way into some of pop’s most celebrated circles.



A. G. Cook

The label’s founder, Cook’s fingerprints are found on a good 75% of things that came out of PC Music. A record producer, songwriter and solo artist, his sound is defined by distinctly twinkly and glistening synths, as well as harsh and metallic silver electronic sound design. Recently, he was described by his close collaborator Charli XCX as “the chord god”. He’s lent his signature touch to uplift the work of labelmate Hannah Diamond, as well as XCX and Caroline Polachek. Cook has since been found on projects by megastars like Beyoncé and Troye Sivan, as well as well-respected indie veterans like Jónsi, of Sigur Rós’ fame. He even helped to write and produce the theme song to Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, performed by J-pop legend Hikaru Utada.



SOPHIE

While never officially signed to the label, SOPHIE is arguably the person that revolutionised PC Music’s sound. Remaining anonymous for many years, she beautifully introduced herself to the world as a trans woman in 2017. Much of her music explored themes of identity, love, and sensuality. SOPHIE’s defining sonic characteristics were her rubbery and plastic sounding electronics, massive bass, and sparkly synths. Across her career, she worked with the likes of Madonna, Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar, always uplifting the voices of smaller artists and friends she believed in along the way. SOPHIE tragically passed away in January 2021, but her legacy and inspiration lives on through her close collaborators, and other admirers of her truly innovative music.


Charli XCX

Known for her multi-platinum hits like “Boom Clap” and “Fancy” with Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX actually had her come-up in outsider club scenes. After landing a major label deal at age 18, she quickly grew tired of the radio-friendly mentality being pushed on her. Then came along SOPHIE and A. G. Cook, and everything changed. They, and many other members of PC Music, became some of her closest collaborators; together crafting songs like “Vroom Vroom”, “Unlock It”, and “Speed Drive” from the Barbie soundtrack: all some of her most successful and viral hits. Now, Charli is now well-known for her leftfield approach to mainstream pop music. By taking risks with her sound and staying true to her ethos, Charli’s presence in the music industry has paved the way for the next generation of pop artists, with many fresh new names in the scene citing Charli as an inspiration, such as Magdalena Bay.


Hannah Diamond

Hannah Diamond was and always will be PC Music’s pop princess. Outside of being a singer, Hannah works also as a photographer and visual artist, meaning every inch of her essence is meticulously crafted by herself. Acutely girly, she presents herself with hyperperfection. From her sweetly innocent yet flawless and digitised vocals, to her glossy and ultra-polished visual touch, Hannah Diamond proudly builds herself on thorough futurism and digitalness. Over the years, she’s photographed the likes of Alexia Demie, Migos’ Offset, as well as fellow hyperpop icons Charli XCX, Kim Petras, Bladee and Ecco2k. Some hold a Hannah Diamond photoshoot in the highest regard: an opulent stamp of approval in the visual world.


Danny L Harle

Greatly inspired by the exuberant energy of Euro-house, vocal trance and happy hardcore, Danny L Harle was PC Music’s resident silly guy. Just wait until you find out he’s classically trained too… You can sometimes hear twinges of harpsichord-esque synths in amongst his definitively HUGE production style! It’s absolutely magnetic, so it’s easy to see how he drew some pretty big collaborations early on from the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen and Clairo. Harle would also strike a major collaborative partnership with Caroline Polachek, and has co-produced both of her studio albums alongside herself. Since this, Harle has worked with a wild array of artists: PinkPantheress, Rina Sawayama, Liam Gallagher (???), and he’s also co-produced Dua Lipa’s upcoming album with Tame Impala, as well as co-penning the UK’s entry into EuroVision this year!


Caroline Polachek

Polachek has had an extensive career in the music industry. Originally hailing from indie duo Chairlift, she has a wholly unique star quality about her: from her operatic and seemingly endless vocal register, to her plucky and bewitching production style. Need proof of it? Look no further than Beyoncé reaching out to her to produce a track for her self-titled 2013 album. Polachek became aware of PC Music around 2016 and continues to work closely with the large majority of artists signed to the label to this day. Thanks to Caroline’s critical darling album from last year, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, a lot of heads were turned towards PC Music’s innovative ideologies on pop.


The label may be dormant now, but that does not mean it’s dead. I’d argue they’re more alive than ever! It’s clear to see just how much the effervescent sounds of PC Music have bled into the mainstream. In terms of what’s coming next, we have the Danny L Harle-produced Dua Lipa album on May 3rd, a new Charli XCX album June 7th, as well as A. G. Cook’s new triple album out May 10th! PC Music breathed fresh perspective into pop music, proving its worth and continued potential. I am eternally grateful for what they have provided to the music industry at large, and their innovative imprint will not soon be forgotten. PC Music forever <3


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