While the bulk of the contemporary dance music zeitgeist has aimed its focus towards the increasingly melodious and hi-fi, there has been another opposite trend bubbling just below the surface of the mainstream. This relatively new genre of “outsider house” rejects modern conventions of sparkling cadence and hi-fidelity in favor everything but. Starkly bare-bones and seemingly uninterested in dance-floor accessibility, the aesthetic of outsider house has often been compared to the punk rock image of the 80s in its rejection of everything that seemed to define the rock music of the era.
Although the outsider house movement has no single individual “face” (although as a collective, L.I.E.S. records could be regarded as that face), Los Angeles based producer Delroy Edwards is as close to a single rallying figure as outsider house can be said to have. While his earlier work felt firmly within the newly established conventions of the genre in its ongoing quest to strip club music down to its barest essentials (with a couple of brief outings dedicated to experimental hip-hop production), his most recent outing, 2016’s “Hangin’ At the Beach”, took a slightly different approach by drawing parallels to another contemporary underground genre of a similar ethos: hypnogogic pop.
Where outsider eschews conventions of high-fidelity within dance music, hypnogogic pop takes a similar approach but for a wide variety of pop genres. When sunshiny pop music is subject to the stripping away of polish and fidelity, the territory it tends to approach becomes increasingly uncanny and surreal, almost uncomfortably so; it becomes like a fever dream. By integrating certain elements of this kind of pop production into what is fundamentally electronic dance music, “Hangin’ At the Beach” utilizes this same sense of the uncanny.
The music is undeniably beat-driven and only a few paces from being club-oriented, but there is something deeply disconcerting about the atmosphere it produces; the result is a record no short of fascinating. The tracks are short, and very minimal, at times resembling video game soundtracks from the SNES era; the sense of nostalgia this evokes, paired with the album’s ubiquitous sense of unease, results in something very feverish, otherworldly yet disconcertingly familiar.
Even when “Hangin’ At the Beach’s” is at its most conventionally “catchy”, Edwards will always take the time to ensure something feels at least a little bit “off”. Even the most structurally standard track on the album, “My Promise”, is built around a wobbly vocal sample of a man declaring “I’ll kill you all!”. Even when Edwards is making straightforward dance music, he isn’t.
All of this might make “Hangin’ At the Beach” sound immensely dense and challenging, but perhaps the most enigmatic quality of the record is how unexpectedly inviting it is. To be certain, from the outset, the album it is varying degrees of unsettling, but there is always a certain “something” that remains inexplicably familiar and alluring, even as the album is outright crying bloody murder. “Hangin’ At the Beach”, at its core, is in essence one extended excursion in using the nostalgic and intimate to rope one into a world of the alien and surreal.
Purchase the album here from Bookmat