Cheat Sheet: A Not Not Fun Primer
Since releasing its first strange transmissions in 2004 and '05, Los Angeles-based Not Not Fun Records has become one of the underground's most exciting, prolific and influential labels. Their aesthetic is commonly described as "hypnagogic pop," a tag that does a nice job of capturing the gooey and decayed fusion of synthesizer music, psychedelia, dub, lo-fi rock, exotica and '80s dance pop favored by much of the label's roster. We're talking freaky heavies with names like Sun Araw, Peaking Lights, Robedoor, Maria Minerva, LA Vampires, High Wolf, Sex Worker, Dylan Ettinger and Psychic Reality.
What's interesting is how every one of these artists feels like a honeybee clone working together to construct a deliciously eccentric hive, yet never at the expense of individual expression. On initial spins, Too Down to Die, Robedoor's neo-Spectrum descent into the phantom zone, sounds dimensions removed from Peaking Lights' narcotic-disco masterpiece 936, not to mention Maria Minerva's Cabaret Cixous, a collection of bedroom-diva grooves mired in solitude and loneliness. Spend enough time with them, however, and shared patterns and sensibilities emerge: the meticulously layered productions that feel like Third World salvage jobs built from discarded technology, the shuddering reverb cascading into negative infinity and, most importantly, the knack for bridging extreme avant-garde rock and dance music. This last quality really is key. No matter how out there any one of these musicians venture, always underpinning the music is a firm, if at times oddball, belief in the importance of communal body movement to (deranged) sound.