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The Pop Dreams of D e l e t e d

Scenes And Sounds

Geekin off the poetics of the internet through digital music and physical perfumes.

By Chad Masters



When I first met Jack Lutsky, top dawg of internet music label D e l e t e d, all-around real dawg, and mixmaker par excellence under the name Forever FC, it was like dancing the French Cancan to Kankan. He told me of a formative series of months in Paris squats that housed the label Sahara Hardcore (who notably brought Goth Money Records to Paris for the first time), before the conversation meandered to Stendhal, the idiocy of certain pedagogical approaches, and our favorite Chief Keef tracks. This was in Los Angeles, where Lutsky and a number of the D e l e t e d affiliates such as wish (Nick Fopeano), Lilic (Ezra Kahn), Glint (Clay Hillenburg), and fall river music project (Isa Milefchik) originally hail from, my mind flitting between riding through Laurel Canyon and the Valley. Shit had me geeked. Almost a year later I’d hear Sosa’s autotune-drenched crooning about “hoes from the Valley” and “smoking on a whole bunch of Cali” open up a mix that wish and Lilic premiered at NTS’s London studios while touring Europe—only this time it was an a capella, layered over Norwegian composer Fredrik Rasten’s “Circling,” which then bled into Panphilia’s “Billow,” and once again, shit had me geeked. Shortly after the tour finished, I linked with them in New York, where Lutsky, wish, and Lilic are now based. The conversation that followed… shit had me Geeked.


“I’m obsessed with being a pop label,” Lutsky said between glasses of Hofbrau at a bar in Queens. He mentioned Agnès Gayraud’s Dialectic of Pop, which works from Adorno’s critique of the popular as a fetishism of the culture industry towards a definition of popular music not focused on origin or form but instead as a destination of utopian immediacy, as a foundational read. Realizing that almost everything on platforms like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, save for the far-most stretches of experimental works, could be classified as “Pop Music” in Gayraud’s conception of the term, he decided that’s what he wanted the label to be about. There’s a moment in Gayraud’s book where she refers to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” as “a poetry of the cellphone which no other musical art could express so simply and directly.” Similarly, part of what D e l e t e d—which Lutsky has referred to explicitly as an “internet label” (they’re currently best known for releasing digital music and physical perfumes)—does is express the poetics of the internet, at times simply and directly like in the title of Lilic’s “Do You Want To Enter The Talking Stage,” but also through a work like wish’s “live at 123,” which stretches Cafuné’s viral TikTok hit “Tek It” (most popularly heard sped up) into eternity, as the sound of Discord notifications enjamb and then overwhelm the sample.


The seeds of D e l e t e d took root in 2019, when a friend sent Lutsky a picture of a thrifted lime green hat that simply read: “Deleted.” He began experimenting with typefaces and aesthetics, knowing that this would lead to the music. In the years that followed, tracks slowly and deliberately trickled out onto the label’s Soundcloud, ranging from compositional pieces to mixes to live sets, all indicative of the unique tastes and impulses of the label’s affiliates. Some of the earliest standout pieces include wish’s rainbow bridge to maspeth and the Lilic x Glint collaboration summer ends (in twos), along with mixes from other artists such as Yyed and Natalia. Their collective approach to the mix as a form also reflects their approach to sampling—using the space as a playground to experiment with concepts and ideas on the scale of songs and hours, rather than fragments and minutes. 

lilic  - companion w/ wish
lilic - companion w/ wish D_e_ l_e_t_e_d

wish and Lilic’s approaches to sampling were honed in on during their time at Bard College. Fopeano, who started making music in the form of lo-fi hip-hop beats, became interested in plunderphonics and utilizing Max patches to go beyond the boundaries of stock DAWs. Kahn experimented with pop sounds before moving from their background in guitar towards an approach that found them playing with compositions in unorthodox ways. Though the two never made music together during their time in upstate NY—their respective focuses were much more cued into creating standalone pieces—they’d come to recognize the compatibility of their sensibilities back in LA, leading to tracks like “companion,” a rework of the Justin Bieber hit “Company.” At first Bieber’s voice is manipulated past the point of immediate recognition, before it then trickles it and the textural familiarities wash over you, in a reworking that translates essences from the original track into new settings. It’s something similar to a Frank Ocean song being ran through low passes and filters before being uploaded to YouTube as “frank ocean's nights but youre in a bathroom at a party,” only perhaps the description might be “justin bieber’s ‘company’ but it’s what you remember it sounded like and your memories have been weathered away by heartbreak, melded with the rush of new love, submerged into a bathtub with a toaster dropped in, then shocked back to life with an EMP.”


Before Cam’ron made “I Used To Get It In Ohio” and before Cam’ron got it in Ohio, there was a moment where the winds of Aeolus blew a mention of Ohio into the offices of the Freeman’s Journal on July 16, 1904, all the way in a Dublin that was not Dublin but a Dublin translated from James Joyce’s memory of Dublin, and this mention of Ohio in not-Dublin was recalled 80 years later by Jacques Derrida, as he simultaneously recalls seeing a brand of Dannon yogurt in Ohio called “YES.” This was all in the process of trying to answer a question of the utmost importance, “Can oui be quoted or translated?,” which led Derrida to ask another question, one that I wanted to ask Lutsky: “Can one sign with a perfume?”

The bossman, who oversaw the release of D e l e t e d’s first perfume with his childhood friend Harry Schreiner, now a junior perfumer with a company in South Carolina, tied the decision to release a scent to a failure inherent to music, that while it is a speech act, it remains limited and there’s only so many ways to make it speak. Ohio returned as Lutsky had studied comparative literature at Oberlin, where his advisor was also a Joyce scholar incredibly invested in ekphrasis. The exercises and essays of those times found their way back into the label’s approach in what he called “a constant game of translation.” Rather than fall back on the tropes of narrativization or world building, they sought different forms of signatures.

This reworking of sources across mediums is evident in the music, like wish’s incorporation of TikTok screenshots in their cover art, which perhaps even serve as translations of that moment in the scroll, now recast as sound. For the perfume, they worked visually, creating a moodboard with images of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains and stills from the films of Angela Schanelec focused on how she used light. There are plans for the future, another perfume is on the way, but what’s also beautiful are the plans for the future that have now become past.


Like pop stars do, they hit the road—Lutsky, wish, and Lilic spent this past October on a five-date tour through Europe, with stops in London, Brussels, The Hague, Berlin, and Paris. Of course, part of this tour was simply metastasizing their locals on the Internet into the Real Life scenes that are attached to different cities. Lilic spoke about how the music of the Brussels-based Camille Keller and rogergoon was important to them, and all three spoke with incredible fondness of London’s dearest Madjestic Kasual. While sleeping in the same bed from city to city, the trio made link after link “off the benadryl from the plane and the Sauvignon Blanc,” bringing their internet-cultivated sound to their internet-cultivated audiences in the spots they had poppin. Plugged in everywhere, call that shit wireless.


Lilic - “Do You Want To Enter The Talking Stage

Taking its title from a viral photograph of texts between elementary schoolers, this track’s synths scream with emotionality as Lilic draws you into textures that mirror the flutters of romance. There’s a brilliant simplicity to its construction, with the single instrument expanding and contracting in frequencies, illustrating the sort of patience they’ve developed over the years from working with Lutsky. You’ll find yourself in tears before you’re able to answer the titular question.

wish and Lilic’s NTS Mix 

It’s remarkable to be able to pack so many sublime moments of collage into the short span of an hour—standout sections include +you & space x’s “go home,” the sampling of an overly wishy-washy couple on TikTok talking about how soulmates are real, and the elusive Sara Jessica’s “give me back to the sky.”

Glint - “2 Times too

Glint - 2 times too
Glint - 2 times tooGlint

This could be the sound of the world’s most beautiful computer booting up. And then you keep unplugging it and turning it on again, because you want to hear that melody again and again. In a perfect world, we’d have perfect computers and Glint would be cooking the sound effects for them the way Eno did for Microsoft. The track rises and falls like waves lapping on the shores of Santa Monica.

fall river music project - “our mutual appreciation

The total output of fall river music project spans two singles and three mixes, yet the quality of these releases has already led to a cult following. “our mutual appreciation” blends acoustic guitar with digital chirps that are akin to being awoken in the morning by the birdsongs of a new species crossbred with Ableton and Max. Also not to miss is “the music of chance,” which interplays between dialogue from the titular film and a selection of beautiful tracks which reflect the charming and eclectic sensibilities Milefchik has cultivated.

wish - “raining in my room

wish - wish raining in my room
wish - wish raining in my roomNick Fopeano

Rearticulating a number of Future, Lil Keed, Gunna, and Young Thug songs while bringing in fragments of Aphex Twin and the Minecraft theme, this track plays with time and space in a dizzying and breathtaking fashion. At first we’re placed in a different sort of Beast Mode 2, Future crooning “Running through the red light, looking through your rear view” before the recognizable guitars of “Oh Okay” come in. We’re left with Future singing a swan song, taken from “KAPITOL DENIM,” the lines blending into one another before fading away into digital space.

forever fc - “Slow Homecoming

This mix.

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