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Record label PC Music pushes the boundaries of pop music with a new sound

Record label PC Music pushes the boundaries of pop music with a new sound
PC Music founder A.G. Cook at the Red Bull Music Academy pop-up studio in Los Angeles. (Philip Cosores / Red Bull Content Pool)

London-based music producer A. G. Cook was looking for a new sound in what he thought was a stagnating club music scene. So he set out with a mission: to create unapologetically uplifting pop tunes.

Three years ago he created PC Music, a record label “trying to make forward thinking pop music, something that pushes the envelope,” he said. Cook commands a huddle of hyperactive pop artists who have crafted slick, squeaky-clean images to go alongside their artistic output. 

The music, almost found only as Soundcloud uploads, apes the visuals — short glossy cuts with pitched-up vocals, cliched aspirational lyrics and synths that have’t been popular in music since 2004. PC Music is a distillation of pop music down to its perfectly spherical, hot-pink core.

“We like taking experiments,” said Cook, in Los Angeles for a Red Bull Music Academy event. The academy provides music workshops, supports up-and-coming artists and festivals around the world, and has played a major role in the rise of PC Music. “Without them, the music videos wouldn’t be around, they’re like oxygen to the music industry.” Cook explained.

Cook’s interest in music didn’t come naturally. “It’s weird. Growing up I wasn’t even that into music, I was much more involved with visual culture and TV shows,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I only really got interested in music through using computers.”

As a teen, he was uninterested in the United Kingdom club music scene and searched for inspiration elsewhere. “I was always more interested in pop music and the identities of pop stars — things that people didn’t think were very important,” Cook said.

He met longtime collaborator and fellow PC producer Danny L Harle while in high school. After a brief split, the two linked up again while Cook was studying music computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. “We learned that we had cultivated really similar musical interests,” Cook said.

After college, Cook caught fragments of work from a little-known producer, Samuel Long, also known as Sophie. “When I first met Sophie it was like, ‘You’re also working on bright, fun stuff!’ It was revelationary.” The producer now lists Le1f, Charli XCX and Madonna as collaborative partners. 

Cook said Sophie has a near-fanatical attention to highly individual sound design. “For some reason he is completely obsessed with making liquid sounds,” Cook said.

Getting fans and critics to take PC Music seriously was a challenge. Many people thought the collective was satirical and not a real record label.

“I don’t really mind these days. Obviously the music is quite elaborate, so if it is a satire it’s pretty well-crafted,” Cook said, laughing. 

Cook wants to stake his claim in the U.S., which constitutes the largest chunk of  PC Music’s listeners. “Whenever we come here to do live show it’s always been bigger, like when we went to South by Southwest and did shows in New York,” Cook said.

He added: “We’re often pegged as this futurist group, but I’m much more interested in the present. I kind of like using the future as a throwaway metaphor. But I’m very much based in the present moment.”

Cook will be performing Wednesday at Create Nightclub for “PC Music Presents Pop City,” presented by RBMA Radio

Tickets are available here.

Follow Razzan Nakhlawi on Twitter at @raz_nak

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