Electronica went through a renaissance in the 2010’s with the rising popularity of online music hubs like Soundcloud. The site went from 1 million listeners to 10 million in the short span of 2010-2012, a meteoric gain that connected artists through a timeline of endless noise curated by creators. Pioneers in experimental electronic music found a new home on a platform that drove artists to create music that would either expand the mainstream EDM zeitgeist, or further insulate it into fringe genres. I think Brasstracks said it best:
Close association of artists-inspiring-artists generated the ideal concoction of lateral music making, a social evolution of sound design.
In 2013, a new oddity arose in the digital music sphere. It’s a subgenre that didn’t receive extensive fanfare, but it’s echoes are still heard in its modern EDM variants. The namesake isn’t universally known or accepted, but some followers clung to it’s humble origin. So how did a movement emerge from a chopped n’ screwed remix of Aaliyah‘s “Are You That Somebody“? Take a trip back to the early 2010’s with me and I’ll show (or reintroduce) you to a blip on the cloudy radar; the Dofflin.
This here was the birth of a new genus in digital music, a whole bank of hypermelodic, bubblegum synth-bass that became definitive to “Dofflin-style” music, all rooted to the release of a single track. It’s 2013 contemporaries were a quilt of EDM genres: Big Room House was thriving, Dubstep was ever-relevant, Vaporwave was still young, and JerseyClub was seeing a resurgence with the help of a pseudonym-clad Norwegian producer repurposing timeless 2000’s R&B. Electronic music was changing, and it’s limitless potential was truly being tapped into.
Here’s some context. There’s no way I can possibly get to everything, but these are the artists and tracks that tie the bubblegum aesthetic and R&B remixing into a cohesive movement.
[I’ll try not to conflate the somewhat small acceptance of the term, Dofflin. Here’s an Urban Dictionary definition from 2015, an ancient Prime Loops Sample Pack, and a subreddit that’s been compiling tracks for years. I’ll give the disclaimer that many of the following tracks and artists also fall into much larger categories]
Hot off their hit remix of Flume’s “Sleepless”, the twin duo from Sydney, Australia, were cooking up a hydro-charged remix of an Aaliyah classic, aptly named:
They emerged during a time where Soundcloud was gaining legitimacy as a springboard platform for musicians, where mega stars were formed from nothing but bedroom-producer gusto and a creative style. The titular track is an Aaliyah remix, full of blippy synths, descending percussive triplets, and a woozy aquatic backdrop of what sounds like… dolphin clicks? No seriously, that’s what it’s called:
The track is muffled, often with detuned samples, warbling like the song’s being played from the bottom of a swimming pool. It’s eyebrow-raising synth tone sounds like the lead’s being played on an inflatable saxophone or something. The cacophonous triplet snare hits, the reckless arpeggios, shit man, there was nothing like it.
I try to remember my headspace in 2013, and it seems like a fucking fantasy, a fever dream. Hearing the Dofflin for the first time, and the subsequent Wave Racer remix feels like formative moments. On paper, it’s ridiculous. Like a song that should’ve been written off as a meme, but the execution was… good? A bit eccentric? But yeah, good.
Wave Racer embraced the track and ran, obliterating any preconceived rules I thought there were to music production. Wave Racer‘s remix and own body of work reflected everything that the “Dofflin” idea would soon embody, and is arguably the quintessential component to the growth of the movement. I mean, just look at the album cover of the first 2 Wave Racer singles (Rock U Tonite, Stoopid) that dropped on the Future Classic label, home to similar experimental music worthy of praise (honorable mention: Cashmere Cat).
This idyllic dolphin imagery was set in stone as the visual simulacrum of the sound; if Stoopid is the second “dofflin-style” track you’ve ever heard, you can probably pick apart the similar sound and style of the original The Dofflin track. Wild, jangly synth arpeggios, goofy sampling techniques, pitch shifted vocal chops, the same degree of bonkers.
Adjacent artists were peaking in popularity, or evolving into newer movements that adopted similar textural motifs. 2013 was the same year that Trippy Turtle ascended onto the scene, with his own brand of bright, synthy, sample heavy (aaand somewhat appropriative) JerseyClub style music. Trippy Turtle created a parallel explosion of lavish R&B remixing, and maybe contributed to a revival in the JerseyClub scene. (A retrospective on JerseyClub is well deserved, I’ll get to it soon!)
There’s not much I can’t say in praise of PC MUSIC and they’re continued influence on hyperpop, also debuting in 2013. With A.G. Cook, Hannah Diamond, SOPHIE, and so many incredible names blowing up from the London-based collective pretty much overnight. Their experimental and opulent pop music continues to be a keystone in the evolution of electronica. They’re the influential peers to so many modes of electronic music, and I’d be remiss to not include them in the growth of Dofflin elements.
The Creators Moved On
The curious thing about “Dofflin music” is that it’s progenitors became massively successful artists that didn’t necessarily nurture the seeds that they sowed. The foundational artists were snatched up by record labels almost immediately (see: Future Classic, Mad Decent), they reached a massive audience (millions of listens, tens of thousands of followers), collaborated amongst each other, and have had continued success with name-brand recognition to anybody that dug just under mainstream EDM’s surface (I’ll touch more on this later).
But The Dofflin Sound Stuck Around
When I think of Dofflin, like, that true Dofflin sound, I think of the countless pop-up producers that kept the vibrations alive for years after 2013. I think of those using the more palatable moniker, Future Bass, that diffused through EDM typecasting, the ones who weren’t afraid to drop the glitziest, brightest, wackiest bullshit you’d ever heard.
I think of Shawn Wasabi‘s hyper maximalist power sampling, rife with dolphin clicks.
I think of people like Sable who modded the sound, chiptuned the hell out of it, tossed in a lil’ extra Future Bass and made their own thing.
I think of the utter shockwave caused by Trippy Turtle, creating a trend of “alliteration-animal” copycats that emulated the hyper-chopped R&B, 130bpm kick pattern of popular JerseyClub songs, glittered with the unmistakable bright synth blips and future bass sway. For example:
Booty Beaver, a future bass disciple and collaborator of TT.
and… Drippy Dolphin, the zenith of TT-Dofflin hybridization. Ultimately, a mistake.
Sometimes the alliterative phrases were Pokemon-centric too… Bubbly Bulbasaur, Dope Diglett, Cheeky Charmander, I really don’t know what else to say. There was a surge in the kawaii aspects of the music, emulating Japanese city-pop with anime-profile-picture artists adding to the stew too(much like Vaporwave and Future Funk, but I digress).
Many of these schtick-profiles are in a Soundcloud graveyard plotted somewhere in 2015-2017. As explosive as it became, it was saturated with so many attempts to cash in on what these powerhouse artists had started, that subsequently the movement evaporated.
So what happened to Dofflin music?
The same thing that happens to all short-lived online genres. It never truly died, but it melted into other online spaces, either as an influence or an element on the road to new sounds. Some names and collectives fizzled out, leaving only the headstone of a defunct Soundcloud profile with the small blurb “# years ago” in the top right corner of their latest track. Some of these producers and collectives still drop music to this day, evolving their sound and changing with the times.
Cosmos’ Midnight released a new album this year full of incredible funk music, Wave Racer has mellowed out a bit, while carrying some of the bright timbres from previous work into new EDM/Pop singles, and Trippy Turtle is now the discontinued alias of the very active Lido, who has arguably one of the most prolific pop/hiphop production credit portfolios of the 2010s (i.e. Mariah Carey, Jaden Smith, Ariana Grande, A$AP Ferg…).
Chances are, if you listen to any sort of Future Bass or wonky trap music on Soundcloud, there’s a sliver of influence that’s owed to “The Dofflin” and the sonic campaign that spirited an esoteric corner of the internet.
Thanks for going down this rabbit hole with me, it’s nostalgic to almost nobody I know personally, but I think that the Dofflin is still important in the grand scheme of Soundcloud electronica and wanted to share something mildly historical and mostly anecdotal. Everything in bold in this article is a link to a profile, youtube video, or soundcloud page, so click on whatever looks cool to dig yourself deeper. I’ll also throw in a mix I made like, 4 years ago if you’re into that curated good good. Hope you learned something, and maybe some carefree bubbly music is what you needed to hear today.
fresh//hell (fka K.Flo) is the Chief Editor of the SWS blog, a longtime contributor to the collective, Soundcloud scouring DJ, Vinyl collector, and a producer-in-training. This is the first of a series of internet music-scene retrospectives, but check out his other blog posts on upcoming SWS events and song promos. You can follow him in the social links below: