Tempo: 130 bpm
Key: A minor
Harmony: i VI VII i
(Insert pentatonic phrase that accents offbeats against a quarter note TR-808 bass drum)
Quantize: 1/16 note
Meet the 21st century erotic musical molecule. Born out of pop music’s shift from organic to synthetic, this two-bar motif bounces like an eight-year old off his ADHD meds, shines like a Pepto-Bismol sunset, and speaks with the simple elation of an AIM smiley face emoticon.
While words can critique, articulate, and redefine the truth, music spiritually captures today’s hypersexualized pop culture like nothing else. This is why pop ghostwriters like Max Martin are so successful. The formula is simple: find a Katy Perry, book her studio time, intertwine her in the well-established framework of modern commercial pop, and broadcast the song within a system that frames sex as the only important yet most forbidden thing life has to offer. One, two, three… cue double standards.
Fortunately, unlike double standards, music is an inherently good thing. That’s why KOPPS, a Rochester-based dance-pop outfit, wears sexualized pop tropes with the ironic pride of a kid in a “Three Wolves and a Moon” T-Shirt and makes it work. No, scratch that. KOPPS seizes the forbidden fruit from pop music, declares it rightfully theirs, and magnifies it into something menacingly epic, sickeningly beautiful, and viciously groovy. Welcome to porno for the apocalypse – welcome to KOPPS.
Okay, it sounds a little dramatic – still, the full effect doesn’t sink in until you see the band live. KOPPS performed this past Saturday, at Rochester’s Bug Jar music venue, the type of spot that, what it lacks in restroom cleanliness, it makes up for in character. The Bug Jar shines through its punk rock ethos and, curiously enough, this makes it the ideal spot for KOPPS to perform. Just take a look at the four-piece band’s minimalistic instrumentation on stage: a drum kit lacking even a drum throne, an electric bass, a simple synth keyboard, and a basic electro pad used by the band’s female vocalist. Indeed, KOPPS approaches electronic musical instruments with the same apathy for frills that traditional punk rock bands have for their guitars and guitar pedals.
KOPPS’ set was a concise and hard-hitting shot of electro-dance-pop-punk (we’ve already established that the band straddles the fence between several different musical genres – label them what you will). Onstage banter was kept to a minimum, in this case not a bad thing. From the moment the band started, they made their intentions clear: get the crowd dancing. KOPPS accomplished just that with tight musicianship, raucous energy, a colorful sonic palette, and an impressive knack for exploiting space in music. The band’s use of synthetic pads combined with real instruments made for a musical texture that, while reminiscent of the ‘80s, set foot in a sonic frontier that felt distinctively fresh. Throughout the set, KOPPS echoed sounds from both the past and present. The band’s tense, uptight polyrhythms touched on “1999”-era Prince, while the sparse synth basslines felt reminiscent of a new Rubblebucket track. Still, by channeling these presumed influences in a context that erred daringly close to humanized Britney Spears-style eroticism, KOPPS formed their own sound, and they did it with tact.
The KOPPS set was over all too soon. However, the band will be returning to the Bug Jar on April 26, with the group Well Worn Boot. For a musical experience that’s all at once primal, rakishly futuristic, playful, and sinister, be sure to check out KOPPS. For more information on the band, visit www.KOPPS.xxx.
Howard is a member of
the class of 2017.