A quick glance at the post-noughties music blogosphere and you could immediately glean a constant; a lot of live acts are electronic-based. While our local scene is very much into dance, it hasn’t quite gotten its own equivalent to the sort of sombre, reverb-drenched pairing of human and machine you’d see in the likes of James Blake, Purity Ring, Grimes, Salem, and Toro y Moi. This is where +2dB comes in, they fill in the figurative genre void – Jo Ann and Jeannie make haunting electronica laced with moody vocals.
This phenomenon isn’t a millennial product, it had its progenitors in trip hop acts and predominantly female artistes such Björk and Neneh Cherry. However as of recently, after a decade since the new millennium, there’s been a resurgence of electronic acts that focus on playing live with vocals. To elucidate us further on why it’s taking off at the moment, we asked +2dB what they make of it.
“Perhaps kids these days like stuff like that, with the internet and all,” they opined. JUICE agrees. As we had made it known in our interviews with renowned DJs and producers, the easy accessibility of softwares and cheaper hardwares these days make composing music – of the electronic persuasion – available to everyone. And therein lies a significant misconception of what it is that they really do. If you follow any one of them on social media, you probably noticed their disclaimer saying that they are not DJs.
“Seeing two girls on stage with nothing but a laptop and the APC kinda looks like we’re DJs instead of an electronica duo, we produce and sing on our own originals… not a lot of DJs do that,” explained +2dB. And we don’t blame them, you’d think the prominence of electronica would mean acceptance, yet the bigger music world still seems averse towards the idea of music borne of 1s and 0s. Perhaps due to the DJ association, most assume these acts as just hacks who press play, which is blatant reductionism.
“Electronica is a nerdier way to go about [making] music. Instead of just picking up a guitar or piano and singing your heart out, electronic music is a whole different ball game – it’s experimental, technical, and requires a lot of time on softwares playing with sounds.”
But then again, despite what a certain gig video might have led you to believe, the girls conceded to the fact that “there’s no live [electronic music without] playback, not with less than 2 people in a band.” Even then, they’re just downplaying the act of playing with their hardwares. It takes a lot of time to prepare, in order for them to properly pull off a performance. That APC ain’t going to programme itself.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that their story is that of a bedroom musician. We had known the two Penangites before – they party as hard as us – but it wasn’t until ‘Syren’ came out that we knew they make music together. The duo created the song purely on a whim, with Jeannie tampering with Garage Band and Jo Ann joining in the fun. But after putting it up on Soundcloud, the duo received positive response from friends and scene people alike (even a remix by a famous DJ), enough that they continued to do more music on a whim again (“What else do you do with a freak song? You put it on the internet.”). Since then, they have had events such as Tekan-Tekan, Urbanscapes, Deer Society Arcade Party, and more to their name.
As their (relative) prominence grew, Jo Ann and Jeannie were covered by other publications while remaining firmly in the underground, which is to their preference. “We love the fact that [+2dB] is still underground and raw and we still get to do what we want to do,” they said before Jo Ann jokingly claimed that Jeannie just wanted to be famous.
The name +2dB doesn’t hold any importance beyond sounding cool, however it is said than an increase of 2 decibels to audio makes it perceptibly more discernible to the human ear. In which case the name is apt, +2dB’s got our attention.