|Cultural origins||Mid-2000s, United States|
Chillwave (also referred to as glo-fi, downtempo pop, or hypnagogic pop) is a genre of music characterized by a faded or dreamy retro pop sound and use of lo-fi recording techniques, effects processing, vintage synthesizers, and other attempts to loosely emulate 1980s electronic pop aesthetics as well as engage with notions of memory and nostalgia.
The term chillwave originated on the Hipster Runoff blog by Carles (the pseudonym used by the blog's author) on his accompanying "blog radio" show of the same name. Kevin Liedel of Slant Magazine listed the genre's characteristics as "faded soundscapes, dreamy lyrical reflections, and warm, anachronous instrumentation meant to invoke the analog glow of late-'70s/early-'80s slow jams." Eric Grandy in 2009 wrote in The Stranger, "The genre's great unifying theme is a kind of fond nostalgia for some vague, idealized childhood. Its posture is a sonic shoulder shrug, a languorous, musical 'whatevs'." Jon Pareles in 2010 wrote in the New York Times, "They're solo acts or minimal bands, often with a laptop at their core, and they trade on memories of electropop from the 1980s, with bouncing, blipping dance-music hooks (and often weaker lead voices). It's recession-era music: low-budget and danceable."
The genre is also a prime example, according to writer Garin Pirnia, of shifting the idea away from defining a musical movement's birth in part by a specific geographic location, as is historically done, to focusing instead on how the groups became linked and defined through various outlets on the Internet. Pirnia wrote in 2010 (quoting Alan Palomo of Neon Indian), "Whereas musical movements were once determined by a city or venue where the bands congregated, 'now it's just a blogger or some journalist that can find three or four random bands around the country and tie together a few commonalities between them and call it a genre.'"
... people had been making this exact sort of music since at least 1992, in the same ways and for basically the same reasons. (Reason No. 1 = stoned, happy college kids listening to records while they fall asleep.) It seems to me that something that could pass for today's "chillwave" has existed, in wide and steady circulation, at just about every moment for 20 years, and mostly as such a rote and staple sound that nobody would even think to name it specifically. At some points it'd have been considered "dreampop" (some of those Washed Out vocals are a dead ringer for Slowdive), or "ambient" (see: Darla Records' late-90s "Bliss Out" series), or compared to Boards of Canada (see: Casino Versus Japan), or tagged as "indietronica." But I'm pretty sure it was always, always happening.
Observers have noted that Panda Bear, especially his 2007 album Person Pitch, foreshadowed the movement proper. Panda Bear's technique, however, placed an emphasis on looped found sounds and sound collages as opposed to chillwave's emphasis on vintage synthesizers and synth programming. The band Animal Collective, which includes Panda Bear, is also noted as foreshadower of the movement. Boards of Canada were also inspirational to the development of chillwave.
George McIntire, of the San Francisco Bay Guardian described chillwave's origin as in the "throes of the blogosphere" and called the term a "cheap, slap-on label used to describe grainy, dancey, lo-fi, 1980s inspired music" and a "disservice to any band associated with it."
Many of the artists associated with the chillwave label have rejected it. Neon Indian's Alan Palomo described it as "arbitrary" and noted that he "couldn't have been more happy" about the chillwave descriptor falling out of favor. Toro y Moi's Chaz Bundick publicly expressed ambivalence toward the genre, saying, "I felt like it did its thing, and once it became a thing, people stopped caring about it, even the artists [making it]... I like the fact that I'm associated with it. It's cool. Not a lot of artists get a chance to be a part of some sort of movement, so I guess in a way I'm super flattered to be considered a part of that."
List of artists
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