4 New Obscure Music Subgenres of 2010

Revisiting a year of tags, trends, and tribulations
By REYAN ALI  |  December 21, 2010

RIDE THE CHILLWAVE? “Call it pop, or experimental pop, or something,” says Toro y Moi’s Chazwick Bundick.

Artists may not like to admit it, but genres are and always will be invaluable for discussing music. The existence of descriptive terms like punk and reggae and electronica — phrases that evoke without a note — allows listeners to pinpoint ideas tethered to sounds (for easy access or discovery) and artists to grapple with established ideas in interesting fashion. (Hello, folk metal!) Still, there are so many genres already that musicians and audiences alike tend to be skeptical of new ones. This year saw a boom in obscure subgenres, and the relevant artists navigated carefully.

CHILLWAVE | As far as genres spawned by the blogosphere go, chillwave (a/k/a glo-fi, or hypnagogic pop) will likely survive the buzz. Tongue-in-cheek creation or not, it's valid. In 2009, a smattering of musicians seemed to work from a common template (typically, one-man lo-fi pop projects smitten with cassette tapes and a nebulous retro sensibility) that pulled Neon Indian, Toro y Moi, Washed Out, MillionYoung, and others into its fold. The style remained all over the music press this year as the artists clarified their stances. "'Chillwave' is probably the last thing I would think of, but I don't mind it," Toro y Moi's Chazwick Bundick told Pitchfork. "I just usually tell people I like to call it pop, or experimental pop, or something." Neon Indian's Alan Palomo took a similar tack, characterizing his work as "psychedelic electronic tape music" in SF Weekly and, in a Phoenix story, declaring that he would not become "the Kerouac of chillwave."

AQUACRUNK | Tangentially related to chillwave is aquacrunk — dreamy, beat-rich electronica with a watery feel. Although the Guardian made mention of the genre in 2008, it took a July profile on UK website Drowned in Sound to provoke reactions stateside. The guide namedropped progenitors like J Dilla, Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, and Flying Lotus. The last name on that list wasn't too thrilled. "Dear journalists," Lotus tweeted, "there is no such thing as 'aquacrunk.' Please stop trying to put us in a box. We're just having fun making music." An LA Weekly blog found other artists throwing in their support via Twitter, but the kerfuffle died pretty fast. The jury's still out on this one.

RAPE GAZE | This unlikely candidate stemmed from a gag: it's how Creep, riffing on witch house, drag, and haunted house (names for ominous, ambient-heavy styles linked to Salem and oOoOO), poke fun at genre names. "All these microgenres that people come up with are absolutely ridiculous," the group's Lauren Flax told the Village Voice. "And this is our small little contribution to the ridiculousness of it all." The tag "rape gaze" comes from Creep's "bedroom eyes"–esque expression in photos, but the joke was murky enough that Flax sent a clarification and apology post-interview.

DOOMGAZE | In August, This Will Destroy You guitarist Jeremy Galindo talked to the Phoenix about his band's well-publicized dislike of being labeled "post-rock." (Bassist Donovan Jones can be found on YouTube declaring, "Fuck post-rock.") Yet Galindo did describe Destroy's upcoming Tunnel Blanket as "doomgaze," a combo of doom metal and shoegaze. And though TWDY didn't invent that genre, Galindo gave voice to artists' hesitation about any genre name: "I'm sure that as soon as too many people start using it, it'll start pissing somebody off and, y'know, back to square one."

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