What does the term “gronkytonk” make you think of? Perhaps rowdy country western music, say, the Blues Brothers trying their best to fit in at Bob’s Country Bunker? You’re only slightly off—gronkytonk is the preferred music in Malka Older’s Infomocracy, and while Older was inspired by a video of Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski expressing himself through the medium of dance during a Superbowl Parade, a group of musicians has now taken the phrase and run with it, creating a dazzling musical genre of the future, today!
Infomocracy imagines a near-future in which the nations we’re familiar with in our time have broken up into a global micro-democracy—tiny sovereign states that each offer their own perks and drawbacks as they vie for citizens, who are free to change their statehood as they please. As the book’s plot hurtles towards a pivotal election, Older builds a near-future piece by piece. In this scene with Ken, a political operative for the Policy1st party, she gives us the state of the watering hole of the future:
Now gronkytonk has been brought to life in our own time! Marc Weidenbaum, musician and author of the 33 1/3 volume Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II brought the genre to the Disquiet Junto. Disquiet Junto is a musical collaboration that meets online once a week to create music, but with a catch—the music is always themed, and the musicians must work within each week’s theme and follow instructions that are sent out to the group’s email list. In the past they’ve created such collaborations as “10bpm Waltz” (make super slow music in ¾ time), “Dungeons & Drum Machines” (make a track with two rolls of a 20-sided die), and “Domestic Chorus” (make music from all the alarms, buzzers, and alerts in your home). Recently they decided to create a musical genre, when they committed to making an album’s worth of “gronkytonk” songs inspired by Older’s novels!
Hypoid’s “404 (Where Have I Been)” combines the twang you’d expect in a honkytonk song with a lovely ambient hum:
Detritus Tabu3 takes a country rhythm and applies grunge and breakbeat in “GRONK GRONK GRONK”:
And itssowindy’s “Gronkytonk Nightmare” gives us a terrifying circus:
And Ohm Research gives us “Tonk,” a song that does, actually, sound like the future:
You can listen to the whole album over at the Disquiet site!