A Sound of Their Own

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Photos by Brennan Booker

ALL AROUND, SoundCloud artists get a bad rap. Maybe the creation and proliferation of niche genres like electronic folk and indie jazz bothers career music critics, or maybe too many random guys on Tinder include their SoundCloud handle and link their mixtape in their bio.

But for every ill-conceived rap made by rhythmless frat boys, there exists many more genuine, talented artists. Part of the appeal of the platform comes from its accessibility to musicians who live far away from major music hubs and can gain a following online from the comfort of their hometown before they dive in and move to NYC or LA. For example, Toro y Moi grew up in Columbia and went to USC; now, he’s recognized as one of the founders of the chillwave movement. Ten years later, here are two brief encounters with current Soundcloud artists who call Columbia home.




CYBERBAE

Ahomari Turner lives downtown in a sunlit shrine to music and art. They invited me over on one of their rare days off. “We’ve been practicing like crazy lately,” they said, speaking of their upcoming stint for a radio station.

Cyberbae’s music is constantly evolving, but their sound is characterized by their mournful, deep voice, slow-building tracks, and lyrical shifts. “My life is music, ever since I was a little kid. If I’m not making music, I’m looking at credits of albums I’m listening to, I’m online looking for instrumentals, or creating instrumentals, or writing lyrics. Music comes before everyone.” 

They perform their music in different Columbia venues — some might remember Cyberbae’s intensely emotional set at Hoechella in the fall — but they also prefer the laissez-faire atmosphere of recording at home. “I post online a lot, but I’m an incredibly private person. My profiles may not look curated — it may look messy as f*** — but it’s because I try my best to make it look as natural as possible.”

They said of their goals for the future: “When I started doing music, I was like, ‘I can’t talk about being queer.’ I’ve never seen anyone like me anywhere in media or doing music, so I had to get comfortable with myself. I’d like to see more people like me performing and doing the creative things they love.” 

Cyberbae’s new album dropped on Feb. 1 — catch “4 Black Queers” the next time you’re looking for something contemplative to lose yourself in.






PLATONIC BAE

Anissa Armaly, Columbia-famous house DJ, plans to move to LA and work in brand consultation. Shockingly, she’s also a senior at USC who “always loved music, but never planned to make [her] own.” 

Anissa started off by searching for the intimate house scene in Columbia — a place where she could dance with her friends to good music and avoid the Five Points freshman crowd — and when she couldn’t find something consistent or satisfactory, she started her own series of house shows called Night School and Night Church.

“That’s the coolest thing about Columbia — if someone has an initiative, if they want to start something, there’s a place for them.”

She’s known for her eclectic mixes, championing everything from R&B to the Bee Gees to Detroit Swindle. About a year ago, she started uploading her mixes to Soundcloud at the request of her friends. She chose the name Platonic Bae “because I’m not afraid to be goofy and intimate. It’s how I love my friends and family, and it’s how I dance.”

Although she doesn’t see a future for herself in music (and actually prefers YouTube for creating spot-on playlists), “Soundcloud will always have a place in my heart. It’s niche, and it’s very receptive and explorative. If someone is genuinely good, there’s the ability to go viral. I hope the business finds a way to stabilize and stick around.”

Anissa often plays on Friday nights in Tapp’s new Space Hall or in other locations around Columbia. Catch her while you can. 

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