Avant-pop is popular music that is experimental, new, and distinct from previous styles[1] while retaining an immediate accessibility for the listener.[2] The term implies a combination of avant-garde sensibilities with existing elements from popular music in the service of novel or idiosyncratic artistic visions.[3]


"Avant-pop" has been used to label music which balances experimental or avant-garde approaches with stylistic elements from popular music, and which probes mainstream conventions of structure or form.[3] Writer Tejumola Olaniyan describes "avant-pop music" as transgressing "the boundaries of established styles, the meanings those styles reference, and the social norms they support or imply."[1] Author David Horn describes "avant-pop" as identifying idiosyncratic artists working in "a liminal space between contemporary classical music and the many popular music genres that developed in the second half of the twentieth century."[3] He noted avant-pop's basis in experimentalism, as well its postmodern and non-hierarchical incorporation of varied genres such as pop, electronica, rock, classical, and jazz.[3]

Paul Grimstad of The Brooklyn Rail writes that avant-pop is music that "re-sequences" the elements of song structure "so that (a) none of the charm of the tune is lost, but (b) this very accessibility leads one to bump into weirder elements welded into the design."[2] The Tribeca New Music Festival defines "avant-pop" as "music that draws its energy from both popular music and classical forms."[4] The term has elsewhere been used by literary critic Larry McCaffery to describe "the most radical, subversive literary talents of the postmodern new wave."[5]


In the 1960s, as popular music began to gain cultural importance and question its status as commercial entertainment, musicians began to look to the post-war avant-garde for inspiration.[3] In 1959, music producer Joe Meek recorded I Hear a New World (1960), which Tiny Mix Tapes' Jonathan Patrick calls a "seminal moment in both electronic music and avant-pop history [...] a collection of dreamy pop vignettes, adorned with dubby echoes and tape-warped sonic tendrils" which would be largely ignored at the time.[6] Other early avant-pop productions included the Beatles's 1966 song "Tomorrow Never Knows", which incorporated techniques from musique concrète, avant-garde composition, Indian music, and electro-acoustic sound manipulation into a 3-minute pop format, and the Velvet Underground's integration of La Monte Young's minimalist and drone music ideas, beat poetry, and 1960s pop art.[3]

In late 1960s Germany, an experimental avant-pop scene dubbed "krautrock" saw influential artists such as Kraftwerk, Can, and Tangerine Dream drew inspiration from free jazz, German academic music, and Anglo-American pop-rock.[3] According to The Quietus' David McNamee, the 1968 album An Electric Storm, recorded by the electronic music group White Noise (featuring members from the U.K.’s BBC Radiophonic Workshop), is an "undisputed masterpiece of early avant-pop".[7] In the 1970s, progressive rock and post-punk music would see new avant-pop fusions, including the work of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Henry Cow, This Heat, and the Pop Group.[3] More contemporary avant-pop artists have included David Sylvian, Scott Walker, and Björk, whose vocal experimentation and innovative modes of expression have seen them move beyond norms of commercial pop music.[3]

Others who have been credited as avant-pop's pioneers include the Velvet Underground's Lou Reed,[8] singer Kate Bush,[3] performance artist Laurie Anderson,[9] art pop musician Spookey Ruben,[10] and Black Dice's Eric Copeland.[11] As of 2017, contemporary artists working in avant-pop areas include Julia Holter, Holly Herndon, and Oneohtrix Point Never.[3]

List of artists

Individuals are listed by surname.

See also


  1. Olaniyan, Tejumola (2004). Arrest the Music!: Fela and His Rebel Art and Politics. Indiana University Press. p. 7.
  2. Paul Grimstad (September 4, 2007). "What Is Avant-Pop?". Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  3. Horn, David. Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11: Genres: Europe, Volumes 8-14. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 36. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  4. Kozinn, Alann (May 11, 2006). "'Emerging Avant-Pop': From Charles Ives to Frank Zappa". The New York Times.
  5. McCaffery, Larry (1993). Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation. University of Alabama Press. pp. 12, back cover. ISBN 978-0-932511-72-0.
  6. Patrick, Jonathan (March 8, 2013). "Joe Meek's pop masterpiece I Hear a New World gets the chance to haunt a whole new generation of audiophile geeks". Tiny Mix Tapes.
  7. McNamee, David (January 19, 2009). "The Best Of The BBC Radiophonic Workshop On One Side Of A C90". The Quietus.
  8. Marmer, Jake (October 29, 2012). "Lou Reed's Rabbi". Tablet Mag.
  9. Michael Anthony (March 22, 2016). "Laurie Anderson, More Than 'Just a Storyteller'". Star Tribune.
  10. Siegel, Evan (February 10, 2016). "Avant-Pop Pioneer Spookey Ruben Conducts a Synth Symphony on 'Granma Faye'". Spin.
  11. Pitchfork Staff "Eric Copeland: avant-pop pioneer", Guardian Music Blog, November 18, 2008, accessed March 22, 2011.
  12. Ashare, Matt (April 17, 2018). "Foreign affairs: The alluring avant-pop of French songstress Laetitia Sadier and Iceland's Sóley Stefánsdóttir". The News Advance. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  13. Dolan, Jon (February 19, 2016). "Animal Collective: Painting With". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  14. Hermes, Will (September 9, 2014). "BANKS's New Album: Goddess". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 9, 2014.
  15. Morse, Erik (November 17, 2015). "Arca Talks Working With Bjork, Screaming About Sex, Explosive New LP". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  16. Cardew, Ben (July 19, 2017). "Things Learned At: Sónar 2017". The Quietus. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  17. Sherburne, Phillip (January 5, 2010). "Hey Dude, You Got Chillwave In My Glo-Fi". rhapsody.com. Archived from the original on March 24, 2010.
  18. Morley, Paul (January 13, 2001). "Autechre". The Quietus.
  19. Caro, Manuel J.; Murphy, John W. (2002). The World of Quantum Culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-275-97068-0.
  20. "Björk". Telekom Electronic Beats. 2018-08-07. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  21. Maloney, Sean L. (January 28, 2016). "Album review: Your Friend, 'Gumption'". Boston Globe.
  22. Zaldua, Chris (2017-05-20). "Industrial legend Drew McDowall on Coil and confronting global crisis". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  23. Everett, Walter (2008). Expression in pop-rock music: critical and analytical essays. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-97959-7.
  24. Ankeny, Jason. "The Feelies". AllMusic.
  25. Cafolla, Anna (13 January 2017). "FKA twigs has made a zine and you can see it here". Dazed. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  26. Leopold, Todd (May 20, 2009). "What will save rock 'n' roll?". CNN.
  27. Phares, Heather. "Gauntlet Hair". AllMusic.
  28. Neate, Wilson (2007). "Githead - Art Pop". AllMusic.
  29. Beyond and Before: Cherry Red’s Avant-Pop and Art-Rock Collection Features Yes, Bowie, Zombies, Procol Harum, Mick Ronson - The Second Disc
  30. Murray, Noel (December 6, 2011). "A year in song (40 great tracks in 40 sentences)". The A.V. Club.
  31. Cush, Andy (March 14, 2017). "Jlin Announces New Album Black Origami, Featuring William Basinski and Holly Herndon Collaborations". Spin. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  32. Geffen, Sasha (January 10, 2017). "Jenny Hval: Dreams of Blood, Screams and Liberation". MTV. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  33. Justin Joffe (June 2, 2015). "AFROPUNK Announces Lineup, New Paid Ticket System". The Observer.
  34. Spin Staff (June 12, 2012). "Daniel Johnston and Supreme Join Forces for T-Shirt Line". Spin.
  35. Bevan, Davin (July 8, 2011). "John Maus - We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  36. Ankeny, Jason (September 11, 2001). "Mercury Rev". AllMusic.
  37. Simonini, Ross (2014-06-19). "Momus". BOMB Magazine. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
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  39. Stern, Bradley (August 24, 2014). "Róisín Murphy Says Her New Album Is "Like Nothing You've Ever Heard Before"". Idolator. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  40. Spotify Playlist: of Montreal (Kevin Barnes)|Consequence of Sound
  41. "Pop: Recommended". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. December 22, 1984. p. 1. ISSN 0006-2510.
  42. Andrew McCune, Isak (August 22, 2017). "Ariel Pink – Dedicated To Bobby Jameson Album Review". soulfeederweb.com. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  43. Horn, David (5 October 2017). Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11: Genres: Europe. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-5013-2610-3.
  44. Gehr, Richard (April 1986). "Take a good hard look at America's preeminent underground avant-pop ensemble – you might like what you see". Spin. p. 59.
  45. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Roxy Music - Avalon". AllMusic.
  46. Fairchild, Charles (26 June 2012). Music, Radio and the Public Sphere: The Aesthetics of Democracy. Springer. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-230-39051-5.
  47. Darville, Jordan (April 5, 2017). "Meet Sevdaliza, A Dutch-Iranian Roamer Finding A Spiritual Home In Music". The Fader. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  48. Kenneally, Cerys. "GAIKA announces debut album BASIC VOLUME, featuring production from SOPHIE". The Line of Best Fit.
  49. Ankeny, Jason. "Slapp Happy". AllMusic.
  50. Hudson, Alex (February 6, 2012). "St. Vincent on 'Portlandia'". Exclaim. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  51. Couture, François (2001). "Sucre 3". AllMusic.
  52. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Björk". AllMusic.
  53. Moser, John (September 2014). "Avant-pop group's member, Comedy Central star to play Musikfest Cafe". Mcall.
  54. Hann, Michael (September 30, 2012). "The Beach Boys – review". The Guardian.
  55. Beyond and Before: Cherry Red’s Avant-Pop and Art-Rock Collection Features Yes, Bowie, Zombies, Procol Harum, Mick Ronson - The Second Disc
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