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The Glitch-Hop Scene

by Mosi Reeves

The Glitch-Hop Scene

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One of the forgotten themes of electronic music’s late-'90s bloom is the cross-pollination between tweaked-out laptop glitch and experimental hip-hop. Its origins lay in British IDM pioneers like Autechre and Aphex Twin; the former in particular are widely noted for adding weird funk rhythms to their tracks. (Parallel influences included the digital hardcore of Alec Empire's Atari Teenage Riot and the illbient dub of DJ Spooky.)

Musicians inspired by these artists made the hip-hop connection explicit. Miami producer Push Button Objects added DJ scratching over electronic instrumentals. German duo Funkstörung cut up its rhythms so finely they resembled frenzied B-boy breaks. By the dawn of the 2000s, this shotgun wedding was a "thing" classified under various names like click-hop and glitch-hop -- along with a subset of stars like Anti Pop Consortium and Prefuse 73 -- and duly collected on best-selling compilations like Futurism Ain’t Sh*t to Me.

The period seems brief now, but it actually lasted longer than many micro-genres that appeared from (roughly) 1996 until 2004. Four Tet's Rounds may have been the last great glitch-hop album -- his sets during that period consisted of pure laptop-generated digital noise -- but today he's rarely associated with the style. The same could be said of Boards of Canada, whose early work on Hi Scores mimicked Autechre. Others, like Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar (then known as Kristuit Salu), didn’t achieve their potential until they abandoned the cloistered and sometimes elitist world of IDM for more accessible club pop styles.

Admittedly, this music hasn't dated very well. The widespread use of randomized computer code for track titles was geeky and pretentious. These songs were pocked with vocal blips to simulate turntablism antics, a gimmick that time-stamped them. But the best examples of this neglected form, like Dabrye's sublime One/Three, still sound as fresh as ever.

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