The creations of Calgary artist Harrison Neef, who produces under the name Silkq, make a solid case for “lifestyle” being a valid descriptor of music.
They’re songs that can be played in an art gallery, hanging out with friends, on the drive home, or in a dimly lit bar at night.
Neef’s forthcoming full-length album From Here & There After is a shopping list of sounds like bass music, noir R&B, trap, and ambient.
In November Neef cold-approached Calgary artist OAKK about his new night at Hifi called “New Wave.”
“On the spot I just asked ‘I really like what you’re doing with New Wave, I’d like to play sometime,’ ” says Neef.
“It was the first time I had really stepped out of my comfort zone and was like ‘I want to do this.’ ”
Within one day Oakk replied with a message that had a link to one of the songs from Neef’s first EP.
“He said ‘is this you?’ I said yeah, and he’s like ‘cool I want you on a night,’ ” says Neef.
Since then he’s been a resident of the night, which is the first regularly occurring night in Calgary dedicated to the influx of avant-garde beats that have been gradually creeping from the internet into the mainstream since the start of the decade.
Neef sees the music of New Wave as a coming together of numerous times and places. He cites early dubstep, British white-label record culture, and classic hip-hop as just a few of the lineages the flow into the music.
“I feel like there’s so much influence from so many different angles of electronic music,” says Neef.
“A lot of people combined a lot of those influences over time, and looked at the different timelines of electronic and where it was coming out of, what it sounded like, and kind of built themselves off that.”
Neef’s first introduction to electronic music came from the wave of hard-hitting dubstep that began to appear in Calgary clubs around 2011. This led him to discover artists like Hudson Mohawke who were taking bass music into a more melodic direction.
“I was listening to really heavy stuff, then I was like oh, what is this really calming and soothing side, and very song structured side of electronic music?” says Neef.
He was captivated by how these artists were redesigning the music he listened to with a new purpose in mind, and revealing new stylistic avenues in the process.
“What kind of inspired my music in general, and inspired a lot of artists on Soundcloud, is the fact that you took the genre that people originally only heard in clubs and you brought it to someone’s computer screen and they’re just at home listening to it, removing that club environment from this club music,” says Neef.
From here he began releasing bootlegs onto Soundcloud, using each one as a platform to experiment with a difference genre framework.
“With my earlier stuff it was just me kind of starting Silkq because I wanted to experiment and just have an archive of stuff posted that I was just working on,” says Neef.
“It started as me wanting to expand my creativity and ability then it just kind of turned into the full time project that it is.”
From the onset his work began generating a significant response. His earliest bootleg on Soundcloud, a remix of Lil Wayne’s “Love Me,” currently has over 63 thousand plays. His remix of Estelle’s American Boy, released two years ago, is currently sitting at 119 thousand plays.
Part of this success can be attributed to the fact that around the same time Neef began uploading, this genre of music was rapidly gaining on online following spurred by YouTube channels like Majestic Casual. Not only was it gaining fans from within the Soundcloud community, but people who previously hadn’t had an interest in the underground were coming on as well.
Neef attributes this rise in popularity to a growing demand for music that lies outside of the conventional build-up drop formula of recent years.
“I think people are just looking for something different, without sounding holier-than-thou by any means,” says Neef.
“I feel like a lot of what’s coming from a lot of mainstay electronic music - that’s getting a lot of festival bookings and radio charts - without sounding anti mainstream I feel like people are getting a little bored of the Chainsmokers 100bpm sounding stuff.”
From Here & There After serves as a testament to why this music has continued progressing to the point that it can sustain a night like New Wave. Neef spent two years on its creation, gradually tweaking it to incorporate new experiences and bringing in friends to help with vocals and sound design.
“There’s a lot of producers that are working outside the confines of what a lot of people are told sounds good, and they’re just making what feels right,” says Neef.
“So I think that, within its own, is pushing itself, because people see this thing and they’re like ‘wow this is really different I want to show people this.’ ”
Follow Silkq on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/silkqmusic