New Hyperpop, Just Dropped
Every day, the term ‘Bedroom Pop’ loses more of its meaning. Deep within the internet's lo-fi recesses, the appeal of fuzzy, DIY production remains strong, but with young artists everywhere shedding the limitations of 2000s-era tones and Nokia-tinged sonic palettes, it has become easier than ever to self-produce music with sounds almost as lush and glittering as the most impressive of professional studios. With the addition of glitched digital aesthetics swirling around the fringes of mainstream pop, the result has been a wave of singers astral-projecting themselves from their bedrooms into starry worlds and animated personas, with idiosyncratic acts like BENEE and indie cyber-girls like Raissa lighting up their own corner of pop’s internet-facing hemisphere.
No sub-genre embodies this eclectic vanguard like Hyperpop, and for Charlotte Boyle (who performs under the name 'Elphi') the growing popularity of this niche sound has seen growing attention paid towards a steady flow of her singles over the past year, accumulating streams, fans and coveted placements on Spotify’s Fresh Finds and Apple Music’s Glitch playlists. Although Hyperpop’s sound is endemic to the online spaces in which artists and producers connect across time zones and web servers, these playlists represent an important bridge between Soundcloud and the bigger streaming services— where the prospect of a new, expansive audience lies.
"I try not to think too much about the numbers, and just keep making music that I really enjoy,"
she tells me, speaking over Zoom at the start of Spring. But the numbers don’t lie, and Elphi’s momentum across each of her stellar releases has made her one of the most exciting Hyperpop acts this side of the Atlantic.
Talk of Hyperpop tends to centre around the same few high-profile names, and while the comparisons between Elphi and Charli xcx might prove inevitable, she spends less time listing these figures than talking about Boiler Room sets, hyping up the producers she works with, and thinking about the ways in which her generation are trying to discover their own lanes in the space opened up by this evolving sound. "None of us would be doing this without her," she says of late icon SOPHIE, whose legacy spans a decade of innovation and influence that resonates profoundly in the collaborative scene that Elphi finds herself in. But within this unmoored genre, it’s clear to see how she is standing out across an array of styles and directions that dot the constellations of her emerging soundscape.
After being exposed to the work of A.G. Cook at the start of lockdown last year, Elphi’s music sounds as if it has passed through the prism of the PC Music founder’s signature extremes of distorted hardware and airbrushed artifice, and come out the other side without fragmenting into circuitry or uncanny valleys. Instead it is an assured, polished catalogue of expressive melodies dyed by an increasingly varied sonic colour palette. From the sing-song reveries on 'You’re Pretty and I Love You' to the pastel hues of her most streamed song, 'Cloud 9' featuring Jonah White— an effortlessly-realised piece of bubblegum pop that showcases a lithe vocal performance — her range is shaded by tracks that push towards new forms and emotions. On 'Play Pretend', an early standout, the pangs of a sinking relationship dissolve into an expansive purple coda that makes love sound like a virtual-reality simulation, giving me flashbacks to Black Mirror’s San Junipero.
Even 'OMG', which struts a metallic high-heeled runway straight out of Charli xcx’s 'Vroom Vroom' playbook, morphs into an entirely different song after the halfway point. Asked if she could picture herself laying down vocals over such a percussive banger, she describes leaping at the chance to step into something more confident without taking herself too seriously. It was also the result of many months developing a fluid working relationship with executive producer and label head Shady Monk, who brought her into Hyperpop Record’s fold after her early posts gained traction on Soundcloud. And now Elphi is set to release her debut mixtape in the coming months. Co-produced by Shady, as well as frequent collaborator Astral Bandit— who handled the delirious production on her latest single 'Out My Head'— the project is described by Elphi as a much-needed full stop after a relentless period of songwriting that has resulted in something as charged and cohesive as an album.
"It doesn’t need to be immaculate," she explains of her swift, spontaneous songwriting process, and in that sense it embodies the heart of what Bedroom Pop still is as a sound, that moment when a daydream, a tune you start humming, a text that turns your whole world upside down— gets captured in all its yearning, unfiltered emotion. And it is this quality that shapes her ideas towards self-presentation and authenticity, in a genre that often sublimates humans into curated, digital avatars and emojis. After dabbling with this sort of conceptual take on Elphi as a persona, she eventually came to the conclusion that these kind of façades had already been done by others, and what’s more she found the effort taking away from her focus on the music itself:
"Aesthetic is really important to think about, but I prefer to think about what reflects each song, what is each song trying to say? Rather than this is what I’m going to do or who I’m going to be… You can’t pretend to be someone else all the time."
Producing her own autotuned vocals, with plans to perform them live without any effects, Elphi is now cresting a year of software, songwriting and the in-person future of a musical career. She regards the long months of lockdown as a springboard from which she could realise the musical ambitions that had long been seeking a moment to manifest, rather than as the originator of these ambitions itself. And by the sound of it, she spent the quarantine living in synthesised worlds of her own:
"This mixtape is very much about playing with time and space and what that looks like sonically. I think the cool thing with Hyperpop is that it allows you to create things like that. If you shut your eyes, would you feel as if you were being pulled around in space?"
With a sure-fire presence over the remainder of 2021, Elphi is looking to expand this immersive sound to the next level— and with any luck, that’s just the beginning.
Sam Harding is a student at York and an enthusiast of mosh pits. He is trying to marry music with writing but is running out of onomatopoeia. Life soundtrack includes underground rap and electronic bleep bloops. Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture website created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He edited this article and he is also a Fleet Foxes shill. We want to write about your music. Follow our Instagram and send us a DM. We’ll contact you if we like what we hear. In the meantime, you can like us on Facebook and subscribe to our mailing list below to stay up to date with our ramblings.