July 08, 2021
In 2017, a 19-year-old who goes by the name sticki created a YouTube account called “dismiss yourself.” He built it on a whim—he wanted a way to archive rare, genre-shattering oddities from across the internet. The only guiding theme was chaos: Find a treasure trove of radiant weirdness, and post it—everything from the 8-hour soundtrack to the 2007 game Sploder to 100 gecs’ hyperkinetic Square Garden and even a bootleg Boards of Canada tape. “I used to listen to music with friends on the livestreaming site rabb.it, and there was a lot of stuff that wasn’t uploaded anywhere,” the Bay Area teen explains. “So I used the page as a dumping ground.” The operation was so low-key; he didn’t even tell anyone he knew. But suddenly, during the early days of COVID-19, a feverish community began to form around the channel and the bizarrely entrancing records he posted. In a matter of months, the page’s view count leapt from nearly zero—where it had been for three years—to hundreds of thousands.
So what happened? A few of the videos began popping off—specifically, Panchiko’s lost indie jewel D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L and tomoe_theundying’s shuddering rap mix Rare RCB hexD.mp3, both of which could be classified as “forum-core,” music that develops a cult following on online discussion threads. Fans will devise intricate conspiracy theories related to the albums’ mystifying origins or arcane samples. Soon, a haze of intrigue begins to grow around the records as they circulate through countless forum pages, Discord channels, and private chats. Eventually, they morph into something like virtual holy texts. D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L and Rare RCB hexD.mp3 were two of those.
Sticki can’t put his finger on what exactly attracts him to certain sounds. “I don’t care about genres, I like the personality and story behind artists,” he says. “In the case of Panchiko, it was because it sounded interesting as a concept.” D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L was a demo originally made by four Brits 20 years ago and rediscovered on 4chan in 2016, when a user uploaded a copy of the album they’d found in a thrift shop, and an intense search began to contact the tape’s authors. Since a lot of the music can be hard to find if you’re not a regular on sites like 4chan and RateYourMusic, dismiss yourself offered a kind of public service: pooling it all in one place.
But the channel wasn’t limited to passive curation for long. In mid-2020, dismiss yourself became the nexus for hex, a rap style involving sped-up vocals, brutal beats, and twinkly sound effects. Tunes are “bitcrushed,” meaning the sample rate is reduced so everything sounds dusty, serrated. The name “hex” comes from the pioneers of the sound, the six-man squad hexcastcrew, who practice Satanism, according to sticki. “They hex songs—in their words, they cast spells [via] bitcrushing the music.” Only an infant microscene in 2020, hex—which is also confusingly known as surge—found a collective identity via Surge Compilation Vol. 1, Dismiss Yourself’s first release on Bandcamp. The success of the compilation led non-hex artists to ask sticki if he would release their albums under the Dismiss Yourself imprint. A few months ago, he dropped out of college to focus on running the label. “My mom said I have a year to make this work,” sticki says.
Calling Dismiss Yourself a “label” is somewhat reductive, though. It’s a one-stop-shop for everything digital: There’s a Discord community, forum, merch tent, graphics house, and virtual live music events. When people ask sticki, “What’s Dismiss Yourself?,” he always replies, “It’s whatever you want it to be.” Rather than act as a gatekeeper, the humble label chief views his role as wingman and matchmaker, connecting artists who might have never spoken to each other otherwise. “I want people to see me as a resource, not a boss—I always see myself below the artist,” he says, adding how running the label has given him the opportunity to speak with artists like SpaceGhostPurpp and Bloodline Genesis, both of whom he’s admired since he was 12 years old. Some of the artists are virtual friends sticki met long before and coaxed into making music for the label.
“I think the one thing the underground has really suffered from is never having a voice,” sticki says. “Not even a commercial one, but just a professional-style release.” To this end, he’s created an entire “album release kit” to teach first-timers how to format in .wav, render stems, and save each layer of the artwork so that he can adapt it later. In addition to mastering some tunes and refining cover art, sticki makes glossy cassettes and clothing for every project. “I want to completely retain what the artist was originally going for, while presenting it in a way that’s much more appealing—I don’t want to be the doctor that takes their baby away from them.” He sees Dismiss Yourself as an extension of the live music listening he used to do with friends, but on a much wider scale. “It’s like having a bunch of roommates who all make art together.”
With over a dozen releases so far and a rapid-fire release schedule, Dismiss Yourself is quickly becoming the hub for internet freakiness. Here are seven of the label’s most madcap drops.
Surge Compilation, Vol. 1
Released in April 2020, Surge Compilation Vol. 1 is the collection that kicked the label off. The 82-track comp spans a motley crew of acts who flex their own variations on the hex blueprint. It began serendipitously: One of sticki’s Discord friends posted art they had made for a record called Surge Compilation Vol. 2. Sticki thought he could do better, so he remade the cover. But then the person informed him that the album didn’t actually exist—they just design fake covers for fun. Still, sticki really liked the cover he created and wanted to use it. So he and his friend brought the fantasy to life.
All of These Rose Petals
Dismiss Yourself recently launched care, a sub-label with a focus on spotlighting smaller indie musicians. Its latest release, Vatista’s All of These Rose Petals, is an album that sounds like a curtain unfurling to let in a beam of light. Clattering drums dance alongside a gridwork of synths and helium-high vocal coos. According to sticki, the tape was originally bitcrushed, the songs produced in the vein of clamorous hex music. A week before its publishing date, however, labelmate Frogman offered to remaster the project, and Vatista ended up preferring Frogman’s cleaned-up version.
Imagine Nintendo tapping Playboi Carti for a Mario Kart soundtrack—that’s what Slyme Koro sounds like. Squeaky vocals bounce along spongy neon beats, and video game-y sound effects ring out in the background. Before making Kawaii trap for Dismiss Yourself, Frogman was active on the SoundClown scene, that mid-‘10s fad for meme-inflected remixes (e.g. Childish Gambino dissolved into the Super Smash Bros. theme). “He went straight from a ‘Dire Dire Docks’ mashup to ‘Cult Party,’” marvels sticki.
It started as a group chat of four: Chilean artist Anthony1, a member of the noisy hex group Team Mekano; Los Angeles aggro-trance DJs Exodia and sienna sleep, the latter of whom is also lead vocalist of the screamo band lord snow; and sticki. He recruited the three producers—who hadn’t collaborated with each other previously—and “forced them” to produce an album together. The result, last December’s Ateriavia, is perhaps the label’s wildest release to date. Thronged with thunderclouds of white noise and bolts of molten distortion, each song seems to overheat and bend, fissuring at the seams. It’s the heavy metal of trance music.
100 Miles & Walk’in
Rx Papi’s music sounds like nothing else on the label. Perhaps that’s because it’s completely devoid of excess noise. Or maybe because it fits neatly within one genre—hip-hop—instead of spilling out into a bunch of them. The rapper doesn’t rap so much as uncoil; he speaks like he’s devoured a stomach’s worth of words and needs to get them all out before he explodes.
in space the rats just dissolve
In 2011, sticki met fishpaste on Sploder!, a site where you can create simplistic Adobe Flash games without having to learn code. Ten years later, the now-defunct platform’s cartoony visual palette and low bitrate sound library is informing the artist’s music. Stumbling between lo-fi sound collage and video game ambient, every track is jam-packed with an array of glitchy burps, fizzy laughter, and alien jeering.
The five-piece Team Mekano filters its hex through a distinctly Latin American lens. Instead of satanic spells, the guiding theme is “Chilean nostalgia…and all the cool things they grew up with,” explains sticki. “The name, ‘Team Mekano,’ comes from an old group that was on a [2000s] Chilean TV show for kids.” But even without knowing any of the references, you’ll enjoy the body-wobbling beats and absurd meme-havoc: a thousand signifers and styles (Sean Kingston, Schnuffel Bunny, video game fx, 200+ bpm dance music) shaken to create a phosphorescent cocktail.