More than a Spotify genre, Glitchcore explored and defined

24 April 2023

Glitcgcore, Glitch artwork by Enrique Meseguer

Image courtesy of Enrique Meseguer.

Too Long; Didn’t Read: Glitchcore is a type of electronic music that features noisy digital artefacts including distortion, static, crackle, interference, and other warning sounds that means something’s not right. But there’s nothing wrong with the music itself. Read on for more of the story…

Twenty five years ago — give or take — a web design trend called “TV lines” was all the rage. Like all fads, it was short lived, but if you were a web designer who was anyone, the graphics on your website had to feature TV lines. The effect would have looked a little like the image above, created by Enrique Meseguer, and conveyed the impression your image was a screen-grab from a TV show.

Although images with TV lines have largely disappeared from the web, it can be argued their influence lingers, albeit non-visually, in the form of Glitchcore music. As the name suggests, Glitchcore is a genre that blends what are considered to be inharmonious noises, caused by errors of some sort, into the mix. These anomalies include distortion, static, crackle, interference, and other noisy artefacts. But Glitchcore is more than an amalgamation of discordant sounds, it’s also a blend of other genres, according to

Glitchcore is a genre of electronic music that combines elements of glitch, IDM, and breakcore. It is characterized by its chaotic and unpredictable sound, often featuring heavily distorted and chopped up samples, rapid-fire drum patterns, and complex, syncopated rhythms.

Yecch, syncopated rhythms. I sucked at syncopated strumming during my guitar playing days. But back to Glitchcore, which actually owes little to mellow, mostly unobtrusive, TV lines, than it does to boldly coloured, garish online memes, and Glitch art. Like Glitchcore music, Glitch artists make use of visual digital defects, in their artworks. And while Glitch art sounds like a contemporary movement, it isn’t. Instances of the form can be traced back to 1935, when experimental New Zealand filmmaker Len Lye incorporated analogue flaws into his short film, A Colour Box.

But Glitch art became more prominent in the early twenty-first century, when digital artists began to embrace errors and unwanted visual artefacts, spewed out by digital technologies, and crafted artworks from them. A Glitchcore musician then might look at a work of glitch art — refer again to Meseguer’s image above — and wonder how it could be rendered as a musical piece.

Musically, Glitchcore is seen as subgenre of Glitch music. Or Hyperpop, depending on who you ask. Glitch music became popular in the 1990s, but its origins can be traced back to the second decade of the twentieth century. In 1913, Luigi Russolo, an Italian artist and composer, produced The Art of Noises (L’arte dei rumori), a Futurist manifesto, which was considered by some to be the basis of noise music. Here, anything, particularly machinery, that made noise, could, somehow, be used in a musical composition.

Hyperpop (think of the music of Charli XCX), meanwhile, emerged about ten years ago, even though the term was first used in 1988 by a music writer named Don Shewey, when describing the Cocteau Twins, an erstwhile Scottish act. Wikipedia defines Hyperpop thusly:

Hyperpop reflects an exaggerated, eclectic, and self-referential approach to pop music and typically employs elements such as brash synth melodies, Auto-Tuned “earworm” vocals, and excessive compression and distortion, as well as surrealist or nostalgic references to 2000s Internet culture and the Web 2.0 era.

Glitchcore become more widely heard in 2020. And like Hyperpop, the name also seems to have preceded the music, if this excerpt from the March 2001 edition of SPIN magazine (and might they be referring to Matthew Herbert here?) is anything to go by:

Herbert is a former piano prodigy and Exeter drama student who went from touring with UK big bands to freaking clubbers with samplers and kitchen utensils, and his cozy records merge glitchcore buzz and tech-house heat.

So, there, at last we have it, an explanation of Glitchcore. Assuming the genre, subgenre, in fact exists, something Cat Zhang, writing for Pitchfork, says is debatable. And given its smorgasbord of genre ingredients, I can see where the doubters are coming from. Spotify, however, has no such misgivings. It’s a verified genre to them, as people perusing their annual Spotify Wrapped music listening reports would have noticed.

In case Glitchcore is new to you, as it was to me, here’s a small selection of the music to check out: Money Machine by 100 gecs, Ethanol by Madge, and This World is Sick by IC3PEAK. I should say a language warning may apply to some of these tracks.

And on the off chance the existence of Glitchcore is blowing your mind, and you think there’s too many music genres, and subgenres already, bear in mind some one hundred and twenty three thousand new songs are released daily across the world. That’s daily with a D. If that’s the case, there’s going be a whole lot more music genres coming to Spotify Wrapped in the future.


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