Making synth of things: Bhanuj Kappal’s playlist of turning-point micro-genres

Check out Bhanuj Kappal’s explainer — and see what the micro-genre sounded like, at the playlist here.


Blog House aka Bloghaus: This was a micro-genre, fashion trend and party scene that centred on a chaotic mashup of disco, cheesy ‘80s pop and noisy electro-house that propagated over Myspace and the blogosphere in the late 1990s and early Aughts. Think Simian Mobile Disco, Klaxons, Digitalism, and Uffie.

Fidget House: Defined by glitchy 4/4 beats, snatched vocal snippets and filthy, pitch-bent basslines, this short-lived, largely online scene mixed and matched influences from Chicago house, rave, UK garage, US hip-hop, Baltimore club and the up-tempo Angolan Kuduro. The term was initially coined by DJ-producers Switch and Jesse Rose as a joke, which, they later said, had “gone a little too far”. Artists included Crookers and Jack Beats.

Hypnagogic Pop: An offshoot of chillwave, hypnagogic pop, as songwriter David Keenan puts it, is “pop music refracted through the memory of a memory”. Combining psychedelia and post-ironic humour with nostalgia for the 1980s, this late-Aughts scene is exemplified by the music of Ariel Pink, Panda Bear, and James Ferraro.

Seapunk: A quintessentially Tumblr micro-genre, Seapunk featured elements from Southern trap, ’90s house and pop, presented with a visual aesthetic of aquamarine objects (dolphin chip art, underwater pyramids, oceanic vistas) all rendered in campy, early digital art styles. It peaked when Rihanna referenced the Seapunk aesthetic for her 2012 performance on the TV show Saturday Night Live. Key artists have included Lil Internet, Ultrademon, Blank Banshee, and Unicorn Kid.

Comfy Synth: The cuddliest of micro-genres, comfy synth combines cosy, childlike synth loops and iridescent ambient tones with cutesy visuals of frogs, mice and mushroom houses. It’s absurd, playful aesthetic is particularly ironic given that many of its leading artists — such as Grandma’s Cottage — have roots in the black-metal-influenced dungeon synth micro-scene. Other notables include Tiny Mouse and Five Odd Eichhörnchen.

Hyperpop: A maximalist, surrealist and internet culture-obsessed reimagining of pop music that became fairly popular thanks to artists such as AG Cook and 100 gecs. Then an Atlantic article called it the “countercultural sound of the 2020s”. Six months later, in mid-2021, British hyperpop artist Charli XCX announced that the micro-genre was dead. In 2022, 16-year-old hyperpop star glaive said he was “working to kill the movement.” It had become a parody of itself, fans agreed on Reddit.

Chillwave: The name started out as an ironic joke. Carles, the pseudonymous writer of satirical music blog Hipster Runoff, coined it in 2009 to refer to the music of acts such as Neon Indian and Washed Out and Toro y Moi — dream-pop infused with a love for cheesy old synths, vintage drum machines and sepia-tinged summertime imagery. The term was meant to parody the amateurish, minutiae-obsessed style of the hipster music blogs of the time. Missing the irony, many of these blogs picked up the tag. The joke eventually soured. By 2014, chillwave was disavowed by its “leading artists”, and had become something of a cringe reminder of the excesses of the music blog era.

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