Thanks to the miracle of the internet, we now live in an accelerated era. Cycles of hype that once took years to play out—the arc of an artists’ career, for instance—now run their course in a matter of weeks. Few corners of the world are as concerned with keeping up than we are here in the music industry, with our insatiable thirst for the Next Big Thing.
One symptom of an accelerated lifestyle is the endless proliferation of ridiculous subgenres: refresh your SoundCloud in a few minutes and you’re likely to see a new label like fluffstep, pookeydonk, or chungleblink slide into your feed. Like the silly genre descriptors of decades past, these too will soon be lost to the ages, and I'd like to take this moment to commemorate some of my favorites from the 90s and 00s before they are completely written out of history—from absurdist in-jokes to acquired tastes.
This media-driven genre descriptor first floated around the Internet from roughly 2007 to 2009 coinciding with the proliferation of mp3 blogs and offensively low bit rates. America's college students found themselves amid a mid-decade exodus away from playing acoustic guitars and listening to indie rock, leading them to don candy-colored Nike windbreakers and listen to crossover bands like The Teenagers, Digitalism, Justice, and Crystal Castles. This was also during the height of Sparks alcoholic energy drink consumption in the United States, which was like FourLoko except with more caffeine and less regulated ingredients. Coincidence? You decide.
What started as an in-joke between Diplo's former producing partner and founding member of Major Lazer, Switch, and tech house producer/DJ Jesse Rose quickly became an “actual thing” when artist like Herve, Jack Beats, Crookers, and Fake Blood were trying to market their ADHD-riddled brand of electro house. The label started circulating in 2008 or so, and fell out of favor as quickly as you can fidget your thumbs, which is to say… very very quickly. If you remember the Crookers remix of Kid Cudi “Day n’ Night,” then you remember the finest (and perhaps final) moment of this microgenre.
Donk AKA Scouse house
“Put a donk on it!” You may remember this iconic imperative from the Blackout Crew’s 2008 music video of the same name. For those that don’t know, a donk is a synthesized bassline that “sounds a bit like a wet drainpipe hit repeatedly with a heavy rubber mallet,” or so The Guardian says
. At its height in the mid-to-late-00s, the donk could generally be found atop cartoonish high-tempo techno. Its origins lie in the Northwestern UK, where working class blokes (whose speak with a "scouse" accent) connected rapid-fire rap verses with happy hardcore rhythms. For a history lesson and a survey of the 2000s’ best sportswear looks, check the VICE documentary
about the British youth center where the sound found its footing.Frog house
OK, fine. Frog house really only consisted of one duo, an early Mad Decent signing called Toadally Krossed Out. Their most recent single is a hardcore electro-rap anthem that features your favorite extraterrestrial drug dealer troll, Riff Raff, but their first foray into the blogosphere was 2009’s “Toads Theme,” which sampled both frog noises and the Cowboy Bebop
theme. It was rumored to be the side project of two world-famous DJs-gone-anonymous, and because there is not one interview with them online, nor any photos of them without frog masks on (or shirts, for that matter), we may never know the truth.
Drill 'n' Bass
Imagine drum 'n' bass, but with even more painstaking attention to tiny drum programming modulations. Add plenty of noisy distortion effects and high tempos, and you’re at the edge of pure chaos. Released under his Plug alias, Luke Vibert's Drum ‘n’ Bass for Papa
was a double-album released on Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records in 1997 that really exemplified the sound, though certain breakbeat-oriented cuts from Squarepusher, Venetian Snares, and Aphex Twin also fit the label. The movement dovetailed with the awfully-named “intelligent dance music” and “intelligent drum & bass” styles, which effectively took the dancing out of electronic music so that computer science grad students wouldn’t have to change out of their Adidas flip-flops and show up to the club.
While we’re on the subject of scary jungle mutations, let’s talk about yardcore, the subgenre that fused mid-00s dancehall aggression with industrial sounds and lightning-speed breakbeats. When Jamaican dancehall don Sizzla is at his most righteous and riled up that shit is intimidating enough. Then you get someone like Bong-Ra, Enduser, or Aaron Spectre to slap 200 BPM blast beats under those tuff lyrics and you’ve got a recipe for pure, unadulterated rage. If in 2005 your friends were still listening to Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed, you could turn up my nose at those softies in favor of a far more hardcore sound.
OMG. Is this real life? What happens when you take the shuffled doof-de-doof of Bavarian polka music and apply it to the stiff rhythms of the 909 drum machine? Schaffel!
Yes, it’s German for “shuffle,” and while some of it just sounds like regular old techno with a slightly limp-y gait, there are plenty of bangers that sample actual retro polka classics—brass instruments and all! Don’t miss the Schaffelfieber
compilations put out by German techno label Kompakt at the turn of the century. Doof-de-doof-de-doof-de-doof-de…
According to Michelle Lhooq in the definitive story
on vaporwave, “it’s ‘chillwave for Marxists,’ ‘post-elevator music,’ ‘corporate smooth jazz Windows 95 pop,’ and ‘better than that witch house shit.’” The bizarre internet genre reconfigures the forgettable sounds of muzak into tacky, fucked-up dance-pop for a “near future, glistening in cinematic HD,” as music writer Adam Harper puts in in an early Dummy Mag article
on the subject. It first materialized in 2012 when artists like INTERNET CLUB, James Ferraro, and Fatima Qadiri stepped onto the scene, and seems to have kept some momentum in spite of itself. Bravo, vaporwave!
This is one of those rule #34 moments: if you can think of it, it exists on the Internet. And as political theorist Malcolm Harris points out in a recent Cluster Mag
article, “the Brony Herd Census
puts the domestic number at 7–12 million, making Bronies more common in America than Jews.” Oh, what—you don’t know who Bronies are? They’re grown-ass men who worship the television show My Little Pony,
and who somehow think it’s OK to attend MLP
conferences and ruin the entire experience for the little girls for whom the show is written. So, of course, typing “bronycore” into Google as a last-ditch attempt to find preposterous subgenres would yield an entire nascent subgenre of dubstepping cosplay dudes. Bronies, why do you have to ruin everything?