Press play on a song like “Antagonists” - a release from budding online act Tropes last November - and you’re greeted with a level of detail that few songs in the world of SoundCloud can muster. It’s downright enormous — beaming synth lines seem to spiral in from all angles and stack expertly on top of each other, peppered with distortions and stray sound effects. Tropes offers a memorable chorus, but under the hood, the track’s infectious nature can be accredited to its producer: fellow PlanetZero and Graveem1nd member dltzk.
The 17-year-old New Jersey artist, whose name reads aloud as “delete zeke,” has built up an extensive resume of collaborations with peers like Tropes since their first SoundCloud upload in March 2020. But their debut album Teen Week, released in February, sees them showcase their abilities over a full-length project for the first time, both as a producer and as a maturing voice and lyricist.
The result is nothing short of pure magic.
It’s impossible to talk about Teen Week without first placing it in the context of the scene it calls home — “digicore.” The tag represents a community of young, online-centric musicians that has coalesced on SoundCloud into an ever-evolving sprawl of genre fusions, chaotic beatmaking experiments, and intimate works of pop songwriting.
Over the past few years, this ecosystem has matured to a point that it can now produce albums like Teen Week, which feels crafted to appeal to the dedicated listeners who are trained on over a year of the scene’s development. Across 8 tracks, the album builds up bursts of energy, then sweeps them away to leave space for dltzk’s more private, confessional moments. Each passage within these tracks escalates and blends into the next, evolving like a set at a URL festival; it seems designed to be enjoyed communally, perhaps in one of the excited Discord servers that populate the scene. In short, the history of digicore is coded into the album’s entire DNA.
When I spoke with dltzk eight days after the release of the project, they emphasized their creative debt to the “classics” in the community, name-dropping songs by osquinn the way a teen with their first guitar might reverently mention “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or an aspiring SoundCloud rapper might pay respects to their favorite Duwap Kaine track. As a producer, dltzk stands out for their ability to take the sounds of their peers and give them a new coat of paint. They have a knack for pinpointing the reward centers in their audience’s brains, making their own synth melodies beep brighter and their breakbeats pummel harder than even those that inspired them. A glance through their four SoundCloud pages reveals a discography brimming with ideas they’ve drawn from a bottomless well of inspirations, including Skrillex by way of “Love Sosa,” and Jersey club by way of ericdoa. But although it carries on digicore’s loud, eclectic traditions, Teen Week provides more than just an event release for an artistic community; it also seeks to further itself from the scene’s rapid aesthetic turnover, and stands as a deeply personal work in its own right. Over layers and layers of their signature FL Studio contraptions, dltzk uses their skill for conjuring up the back-of-the-mind self-doubts that run through adolescence to piece together a loose concept album about simply growing up and getting through the day.
dltzk is not exactly a power vocalist, but they’re certainly a distinctive one. Their local-teen hum fits satisfyingly into the album’s intricate instrumentals — one artist handling both vocals and production makes Teen Week feel like it’s fulfilling a cohesive vision. Even when lines don’t land perfectly, they absorb the listener in the album’s stream-of-consciousness narrative. It’s also hard to imagine a more over-the-top voice pulling off some of dltzk’s lyrics here as unforgettably as they can. On “homeswitcher” - joined by newly-introduced PlanetZero member kmoe as throttling future-bass explosions overpower the mix - they lament a broken friendship by alluding to Discord permissions: “you get excluded like a private VC / I thought we were besties.” The half-hearted sneer that dltzk’s voice adopts here personalizes these lines, making them stick in your head like any good pop-punk hook would. It’s a fun, endearing refrain instead of an overdramatic one.
The blown-out chorus on this track is just one of the breathtaking moments in an album full of instances like it. Teen Week works as a crash course in all the ways dltzk can use their scene’s vast production toolset to explore their own psyche and the blurry recesses of their past. On “52 blue mondays” and “woodside gardens 16 december 2012” - the album’s two lead singles - breakbeats rip holes through spacetime. As dltzk whips up cyclones of noise around their voice on “woodside gardens,” their combination of point-blank lyricism and ever-relentless production whisks the listener back through years of buried emotions. Samples of everything from a wido song to a classic creepypasta YouTube video appear in the breakcore-inspired instrumentation like old memories suddenly rushing to the front of your mind.
An awkward swarm of competing instrumental lines, which chugs ahead with the unresolved anxiety of having too many browser tabs open, cloaks a more muted breakbeat on “dysphoria.” Their songwriting here sees them digging inward and laboring over their physical insecurities: “you only say I’m not ugly because I know you’re my friend”. The opening cut “let down” even samples this later track outright -- adding to the overall sense of being lost in time, not quite sure whether you’re reflecting on the past or reliving it. Throughout the album, dltzk’s rawest lyrics often need to pierce through thick sheets of noise and bitcrushing. But this distortion only helps their images of lonely online nights and manic self-reckoning rattle in your brain more vividly, as if they were crumpling pages of a diary inside your headphones.
Their knack for songwriting culminates on the closing “seventeen,” where they finally confront the looming end of their childhood. They study their intrusive thoughts over and over again, worrying whether their peers will make fun of them, dreading the prospect that they’ll “go to college, have a shit time, get a job,” and “won’t be happy.” The track’s grungy guitar crunch is grafted into soft, post-plugg ambience, like two eras and styles of SoundCloud production are contracting together. By the time the song ends and its dramatic tension reaches its peak, the tough guitars have totally swallowed up the safe, video-gamey bed of sound in which they began.
The track sees dltzk being drowned out by an unstable sea of noise, left frantically repeating lines about “candy in the suitcase” and begging to keep their coat on. They seem terrified of what’s coming next; they can’t face their future. But then those cozy, 16-bit melodies return to fill the space, shimmering like breath on an icy morning before school, a final, cherished memento of the youth they are leaving behind. “seventeen” serves as a reminder of what the kind of music on Teen Week has become for so many artists. It’s a home, a site of both outer life experience and inner creative exploration — a way for kids like dltzk to discover themselves.
I was lucky enough to have a brief conversation over Zoom with dltzk about a week after Teen Week’s release; we spoke about their myriad inspirations and a few of the album’s deeper conceptual ideas. The interview is transcribed below, lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
What were your artistic goals when you made this project?
A lot of it was to capture the elements of nostalgia, from, like, your early childhood. You, me, in general, people’s early childhood. People my age. I wanted to make something that sounded like they’d hear it in a video game, or something like they’d hear on TV.
I’m around your age, and I definitely got that feeling from it.
I’ve succeeded! Let’s go! (laughing)
Speaking of which, in your last interview with Bill for Lyrical Lemonade, you mentioned that a Skrillex song was your first gateway into music. And after that, Porter Robinson, stuff like that. Tell me more about the EDM stuff you were into as a kid.
If you asked me my top three artists in maybe the 4th grade, I would have said, like: “Skrillex, Madeon, Kill the Noise,” probably. And I got into Porter Robinson in, like, middle school, I think. But I started getting into EDM in like 4th grade.
In that interview, you mentioned one specific song. Do you remember which Skrillex song it was?
I think it was “First of the Year.”
Okay, yeah, I know that one! I can see that. With the explicitly EDM passages on Teen Week, the blown-out, crazy stuff, who were you taking influence from?
I think with a lot of the harsher parts, I was more taking inspiration from... you know that one part on “Fellow Feeling” by Porter Robinson? Where it just goes all crazy for a little bit? That’s the main inspiration for all the noisy parts on the album.
One thing I’ve noticed in your production, both for yourself and other people, is that breakbeats are really your thing. Especially on “blue mondays” and “woodside,” it’s like… breakbeat madness. Are there any specific artists who drove you to explore that sound?
Not really. I think it’s mostly just that, like, the scene uses a lot of breakbeats. I don’t really listen to a lot of other artists that use breakbeats. But I think maybe… Virtual Self, Porter Robinson’s side project. That’s what first got me into using some breaks and stuff.
How did you get into this SoundCloud scene in particular?
Oh, same here! In like February last year?
Yeah! It all started when I heard “Pressure,” and stuff like “mbn.” Basically all the songs that are like… classics now. And I was like, “Oh! I wanna make a song like this!” And I made a song like that, and that was the first upload on my account. That’s on my account right now.
“Listerine,” I think?
I wanted to ask about some of the lyrics on this album, too. Specifically on “seventeen.” There’s lots going on in your mind on that song -- you’re afraid of growing up, you’re hiding behind really thick clothes, your sleep schedule’s off. Tell me more about the story of that song.
I think it’s kind of reflective of both my early childhood and now. Back in elementary school, you could just, like, wear coats in class. And I didn’t really have that many friends, so I’d just play my DS after school and not really talk to many people. And then, like, now, obviously I have some friends, but a lot of the stuff I did when I was in 5th grade I still do now.
There’s a specific bit in that track about how there’s “candy in the suitcase.” What’s that referring to?
Okay, so, first I heard it in a David song. And I was like, “That’s a cool line! But I’m not gonna use it in the same way.” The line has like two different meanings. The second half of the song talks about a crush I had, like two years ago, on someone who was like two grades above me. When I was a sophomore, they were graduating. So I was like: “candy in the suitcase”, meaning “candy” as the childhood and the “suitcase” as the adulthood, in the sense that they’re kinda mixing together. The other “candy in the suitcase” meaning is like...I still have a couple months left of childhood, so I don’t wanna grow up yet.
A lot of young people around our age have those same feelings. Especially with the pandemic kind of taking away our last years.
It’s really annoying. I feel like lots of people are reckoning with their identities a lot, and feeling like they didn’t get to do all they wanted. Are you feeling that?
Definitely. All of it started to heighten when the quarantine started, you know?
Yeah. When you turn eighteen, you kinda lose that “candy in the suitcase.” What are you planning on doing once you move out?
Right now… I’ve already applied to, like, a couple colleges. I don’t really want to go, but my parents want me to go, so I’ll go. If this (music) does end up working out, I’m definitely gonna, like, drop out or something. But for now I’m just gonna go, because why not, you know?
Is there anybody else on SoundCloud who you really want to work with? I know your beats are really hot right now, but is there anyone specific where you’re like, “oh, I gotta get a song in with this person!”
I sent a beat to Braxton Knight, but looking back at it, the beat I sent him was not that good. So I’m probably gonna send him another in the future. I wanna work with Wells again. We do have that one song, “hatchets,” but I do want to work with her again. I want to work with SEBii, 8485… I want to make another song with (deth) coni, definitely. I wanna do another one with Kuru, too.
I liked the song with coni that you did. With (Brave Rome Terrified), right?
Yeah, it was featuring Rome. I think it was called “ACPP.”
Oh, yeah! That’s a cover of “All I Wanted” by Paramore. I definitely want to make more beats like that and send them out.
Did you listen to Paramore growing up?
Not really, actually!
So that was more from them?
No, it was my idea to make the cover of “all i wanted.” Obviously, because, you know… everybody’s heard at least one Paramore song in their life, but I think a lot more recently I’ve started getting into Paramore.
Talking about influences again, you started off being more into EDM as a kid. And now you’re in this scene that has a lot of dance undercurrents, but there’s lots of hip-hop and rap going on, too. Were there any early influences there that you want to talk about?
I actually didn’t really listen to much hip hop as a child. I think I started in, like… freshman year, probably, that’s when I started listening to hip hop, getting into trap beats and stuff. I started listening to XXXTentacion and Trippie Redd... but I also started listening to, like, Tyler and Earl. And Frank Ocean. I know (Frank’s) not really hip hop at all, but I started listening to Odd Future.
I noticed in the description on “homeswitcher” that you talk specifically about how you got this “meow synth” that you used. Tell me how that came to be.
So, you know the song “love 2 you” by acounta? That song gave me so much inspiration! Not even just to make “homeswitcher.” That song gave me so much inspiration. That’s one of my favorite songs, like, ever.
Besides that one synth, what have you taken away from it?
I love the pads, and, like… the break in the middle. The second drop’s really good, too, but the first drop is my favorite.
So, Teen Week is out. You had this big album drop, and obviously you’re making beats for people, as we discussed. But where are you going next, as an artist of your own?
I actually don’t know (laughing). I really want to drop a song soon, but I don’t want to make it too congested, so I’ll probably wait like two months before I drop another song. After that, I wanna drop some more music in the summer.
Since our conversation, dltzk’s beats and features have stayed in high demand, including collaborations with midwxst and juno that maintain their current run. Their beats are as distinctive as ever, and among their scene’s many voices, they’re becoming one of the most adept at cutting through the scene’s noise, leaving the listener with lyrics and ideas that stick. In a few short months, they’ve risen from one of digicore’s many snippet-trading players to arguably its most in-demand figure.