Exploring chillwave outside of the bedroom
Absurd genre categorizations didn’t begin with the Internet, but it certainly hasn’t helped. In the past, shorthand descriptors were reserved for broader music movements; these days, however, even indie micro-genres have innumerable ill-fitting-yet-catchy titles bestowed upon them. (Would any artist ever non-ironically refer to itself as "shit-gaze"?) To be fair, not every fabricated genre should be dismissed because of its unfortunate moniker. Enter "chillwave," a phrase popularized by Hipster Runoff—a post-post-modern blog dedicated to the deconstruction of self-serious alternative culture—describing a type of melodic synth-pop that intentionally sounds like it was recorded on a Sony Walkman. Although it might have been tongue-in-cheek, the name stuck, launching an impressive array of outlandish metaphors in the press alongside a multitude of articles examining the nature of the movement. With many of these projects taking their Pro Tools on the road this year—including Alan Palomo's Neon Indian, playing July 17 at Turner Hall—The A.V. Club considers whether four of chillwave’s most prominent artists are worth a trip to the club or best suited for the bedroom.
Multi-instrumentalist in question: Palomo, the hyper-prolific mind behind the more straightforward synth-pop of Vega and the voice of defunct Denton NES fetishists Ghosthustler.
"Best" described as: "Neon Indian is 'so-blog-right-now' and totally 'on trend' with this whole Mario Kart emulator dreamland, otherwise known as the post-Postal Service paradigm." —Drowned In Sound
Does it translate live? Take it from a firsthand source: Those looking to retain any fondness for last year's full-length Psychic Chasms are best served by avoiding Neon Indian live.
Multi-instrumentalist in question: Ernest Greene
"Best" described as: "Like someone smeared Vaseline all over an early OMD demo tape then stayed up all night trying to recreate what they heard." —Pitchfork
Does it translate live? With Small Black acting as Greene’s backing band, there’s a reasonable chance that more than his index fingers will be moving up on stage.
Memory Tapes/Memory Cassette/Weird Tapes
Multi-instrumentalist in question: Dayve Hawk, once the lead singer for Philadelphia dance-punk band Hail Social
"Best" described as: "What amounts to American Apparel store muzak: accomplished and pleasantly narcotic, but a tad too soporific and glossily empty, sucking you down into its own aural K-hole" —The Quietus
Does it translate live? Hawk played his first shows earlier this year, one supporting Bradford Cox’s Atlas Sound. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times reported that the set consisted of just six underwhelming songs performed with a drummer.
Toro Y Moi
Multi-instrumentalist in question: Chaz Bundick
"Best" described as: "Hits you like Animal Collective on a comedown, or Ariel Pink with Seasonal Affective Disorder" —NME
Does it translate live?: Warming a crowd up for the kaleidoscopic multimedia explosion of Caribou is a tall order, but considering that Bundick is one of the more seasoned touring musicians of this lot, the odds are in his favor—especially with a live backing band. Their recent stop at Emo's gave Bundick's songs a jolt (relatively speaking) that was sorely absent from his various SXSW day show appearances.