Pick Up on This

New artist alert: Glitch Mob

Like yogurt, some ideas need to ferment before they're palatable to the masses. Take the laptop music micro-movement that kicked off in San Francisco in the '90s. Skinny guys with glasses, hunched stoically over iBooks and impervious to the dictates of the dancefloor, left the club set unsurprisingly tepid. But one of the sounds that grew out of that scene — glitch — is finally trickling down to party people at large, and was even much gossiped about at Burning Man this year.

The original idea for the genre was to overload one's music-making machine with too many tasks, which would force it to modify sounds in unexpected ways. Now there are ways to replicate those effects, but the result is the same — a scattershot, rough-edged, clipped version of electronic music's usually sleek lines. What was once the domain of nerds and their dateless friends has been juiced up and smuggled into the ever-present post-hippy-raver breakbeat scene. Leading the advance is the Glitch Mob, an amorphous crew of local DJ-producers (the MySpace page lists eight, but it frequently manifests in smaller configurations). Taking crunk and other urban pop music as its canvas to shred, the Glitch Mob manages to keep the dread-out yoga kids moving.

Some have pointed out that this sort of digital bastardizing of ghetto anthems has been done before, and with more complexity, by Oakland's sonic confrontationist Kid606, his colleague DJ /rupture, and others. This is true. But anyone attending a Glitch Mob throwdown will notice a key difference — people getting loose and genuinely having fun. Few seem to be scratching their heads in puzzlement, or cowering in the corner. Perhaps the music is a pinch watered down, but until now the Kool-Aid had been tart indeed.

 
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