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Chillwave, sometimes also referred to as glo-fi or downtempo pop,[1] is a genre of music characterized by a faded or dreamy retro pop sound and use of lo-fi recording techniques, effects processing, synthesizers, looping, sampling, and heavily filtered vocals with simple melodic lines. Artists may pursue an emulation of 1970s and 80s pop music aesthetics as well as its engagement with notions of memory and nostalgia.[2][3] Its musical predecessors are diverse and include the synthpop of the 1980s, the almost whispered vocals from dream pop, lo-fi, new wave nostalgia and ambivalence towards pop from electroclash, psychedelic, funk/disco, it actually appropriates anything according to its conceptual frame, sound platform and memory manipulation plan.

Defining the genre[edit]

The term chillwave originated on the Hipster Runoff blog[4] by Carles (the pseudonym used by the blog's author) on his accompanying "blog radio" show of the same name.[5] 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."[6] Eric Grandy in 2009 wrote in The Stanger, "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'."[7] 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."[8] Its predecessors are diverse and include the 1980s synthpop, shoegaze,[9] ambient, musique concrète and various types of music outside of the Western World.

The genre is also a prime example 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. Garin 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.'"[5]


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.[10][11] The band Animal Collective, which includes Panda Bear, is also noted as foreshadower of the movement.[12] Scottish electronic band Boards of Canada have been mentioned as an influence.[13]

Responses and criticism[edit]

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."[14]

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.[15] 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."[16]

Notable artists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hinkes-Jones, Llewellyn (15 July 2010). "Downtempo Pop: When Good Music Gets a Bad Name". The Atlantic. 
  2. ^ "Is Chillwave the Next Big Music Trend? - Speakeasy - WSJ". The Wall Street Journal. 
  3. ^ Keenan, Dave (2009). "Childhood's End". The Wire (306). 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Pirnia, Garin (2010-03-13). "Is Chillwave the Next Big Music Trend?". The Wall Street Journal. 
  6. ^ Liedel, Kevin (11 August 2013). "Washed Out: Paracosm". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Grandy, Eric. "Triumph of the Chill". The Stranger. Retrieved 4 June 2016. 
  8. ^ Jon Pareles (2010-03-21). "Spilling Beyond a Festival's Main Courses". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-11. 
  9. ^ Wyatt Williams, How Ernest Greene Became the Poster Boy for Chillwave, Creative Loafing [Atlanta], March 23, 2010.
  10. ^ Slothbear, Indy Rock Reviews [sic] ::: Panda Bear - Tomboy/Slow Motion 7", SPOTBLOG, July 23, 2010.
  11. ^ Brent DiCrescenzo, "Bros Icing Bros: Which Mellow Act Is the True King of Chill?" Time Out Chicago, July 15–21, 2010: 20.
  12. ^ a b c The Decade in Music Genre Hype - Page 3 - Music - New York - Village Voice
  13. ^ Fallon, Patric (June 10, 2013). "Deep Inside: Boards of Canada 'Tomorrow's Harvest'". XLR8R. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  14. ^ McIntire, George (February 26, 2013). "Just chill". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "Neon Indian’s Lurid Nightlife". Weld for Birmingham. 2016-04-11. Retrieved 2016-05-06. 
  16. ^ "Toro Y Moi asks the big question: What For?". Weld for Birmingham. 2015-10-13. Retrieved 2016-05-06.