Indie chill…. What is it? What does it mean? Those two words open up a postmodern rabbit hole into a quantum universe of indeterminacy. What might make one person mellow, sleepy, happy, and calm might be infuriatingly boring to another? That's not even to begin to dissect that first word, as what is and isn't 'indie' is a whole separate conversation.
Why is this fuzzy, quantum descriptor taking over? Is indie chill a genre? A musical movement? Without getting into a metaphysical debate, we can default to Descartes' view on existence. Indie chill is real, because it exists, because people think it's real.
But why are so many people gravitating towards this fuzzy genre? What does it say about the world we're living in? Let's discuss, shall we?
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Another of the first genres to use the 'chill-' prefix definitively is chillhop. Odyssey Magazine defines chillhop as "the intersection of jazzy elements, hip-hop, and electronic music." They position chillhop as a sub-genre of trip-hop, incorporating aspects of neo-soul and ambient music, first coming to prominence in the early 2000s. By that definition, Chillhop is essentially just 21st Century trip-hop. Which is to say, downtempo electronic music with all of the rough edges smoothed away, all shadows cast out, the darkness dispelled.
The ultimate representation of the chillhop sound is the Japanese producer/DJ Nujabes. Nujabes became popular with his soundtrack for the anime series Samurai Champloo. Adult Swim, who aired the anime in the United States, ended up picking up a number of Nujabes' other singles to air during breaks, becoming a bedrock of what would later become the Adult Swim Singles compilations.
For those that are familiar with that series or style, you're perhaps starting to imagine a sound - a mixture of shuffling, intricate polyrhythms; jazz samples; and sci-fi electronics. If you imagine what DJ Shadow might sound like if he limited themselves to sampling off of bebop LPs, '80s trance electronica, and Japanese City Pop, you're getting very close to what clickhop sounds like.
Nujabes' died too young, in a car accident on the Shuto Expressway. Another of chillhop's sonic visionaries died tragically, depriving us of his deep musical knowledge and magpie musical instincts. J Dilla also died in 2006 at the height of his creativity.
It's hard to imagine what might've happened had this fusion of jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music not lost its two most forward-thinking prophets. Luckily, Flying Lotus, sort of The Holy Ghost of clickhop, is still with us, ignoring musical boundaries and still creating some of the best indie chill songs out there.
Clickhop is closely associated with another flavor of mellow, heady hip-hop, sounding from earbuds and dorm rooms all over the globe.
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