2017 Music in Review: Clark’s Shimmering Rework of Chris Lee and PC Music’s C-Pop Gem

PC Music’s Month of Mayhem was, by design, a L O T. We got a new something every day of the titular month, often something completely, sideswipingly unexpectable. To whit: among much else, a second volume of the label’s MIDI collections featuring selections that ranged from the “Hey QT” chord progression to Lil Data deep cuts; a harpsichord EP from Danny L Harle exercising his previously demonstrated classical chops; an unfathomable song and video in collaboration with interactive artist George Michael Brower that looks an awful lot like a mobile app; a mysterious and decidedly gqom-inflected new artist(? Character? Signee? Persona? Does it matter?) named U.R.S.U.L.A.; and comebacks of some of the more dormant names on the fringes of the label’s catalog (here’s hoping this heralded the long-awaited, by me, return of Nu New Edition). Early on in the blitzkrieg, we got a pair of ephemeral remixes from A.G. Cook’s mesmerizing double-A side with C-Pop star Chris Lee. et aliae’s gentle treatment of “Real Love” was lovely if static, but the real keeper — from the pair and, more broadly, from the entire Mayhem enterprise — was an overhaul of “Only You” by British techno veteran Clark.

The concepts and abstractions and ideologies of PC Music are critical to any understanding of the label’s ethos, aesthetics, and place in the current musical landscape, and I do not mean to devalue their importance (we’ll get into this later in the month, when I tackle GFOTYBUCKS’ glorious, messy sprawl). However, the crystallization of that aesthetic into a defined catalog of musical ideas and tropes has allowed a few of the group’s most sublime works to employ them removed from conceptual frameworks towards a goal of pure feeling. The premier instance of this is easyFun’s transcendent remix of Jessie J’s “Domino”, whose asymmetrical, harmonically enriched arpeggios Clark emulates here to stunning affect. The two remixes also share an aversion to percussion — easyFun achieved spectacular liftoff with little more than a hi-hat tick, but “Only You (Clark Remix)” abandons even that 66 seconds in, leaping off a cliff into a gleaming, iridescent cavern of blissful keys. PC Music bloomed partly in response to the rise of EDM’s neon slamming, and this track asks what the style’s architecture might look like with the titanic beats we presume to be its foundation stripped away. Even as the sounds decay into a papery fuzz in its final moments, its answer still shimmers with feeling.

Previously: Arca: Arca