Witch house music

Witch house music DEFAULT
  1. Salem

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    267,652 listeners

    There are multiple acts with this name:

    1) SALEM (sometimes stylized as S4LEM) is an American band from Traverse City, Michigan. Considered to be…

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  3. oOoOO

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    184,910 listeners

    Chris Dexter is the artist behind oOoOO (pronounced "oh"), a witch house/chillwave project formed in 2008 based in San Francisco, California, USA.…

  4. White Ring

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    139,304 listeners

    White Ring is a dark, trance-inspired duo based in New York, NY. Formed in the mid-2000s, White Ring began to emerge sometime in the middle of…

  5. The Synthetic Dream Foundation

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    34,089 listeners

    The Synthetic Dream Foundation coallesced as an experimental music band in late 2005. In that span of time, the project has gardened a palette…

  6. Balam Acab

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    221,671 listeners

    Balam Acab is the musical project of Pennsylvania, USA native Alec Koone. Balam Acab's contributions fit squarely into the contemporary witch house…

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  8. Holy Other

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    206,720 listeners

    Taking the alien kinetics of UK garage, the euphoric highs of vocal house and the slow, sensuality of R&B, Holy Other from Manchester, UK has…

  9. Ritualz

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    75,870 listeners

    http://ritualz.com
    http://ritualz.bandcamp.com/
    https://ritualz.storenvy.com/
    https://soundcloud.com/rrritualzzz

    Sometimes stylised as †‡†

  10. LAKE R▲DIO

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    34,492 listeners

    http://lakeradio.bandcamp.com/
    http://www.endlessfieldstudios.com/
    http://lakertriangledio.tumblr.com/


    LAKE R▲DIO is Caden Moore from Illinois. Since…

  11. Modern Witch

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    37,788 listeners

    Modern Witch is Kristy Foom, Mario Zoots and Kamran Khan. The band makes house and wave influenced dance music with deep vocals and occult…

  12. Crystal Castles

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    1,744,648 listeners

    Crystal Castles are an experimental electronic band which formed in 2003 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and currently consists of Ethan Kath and…

  13. Ritualz

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    75,870 listeners

    http://ritualz.com
    http://ritualz.bandcamp.com/
    https://ritualz.storenvy.com/
    https://soundcloud.com/rrritualzzz

    Sometimes stylised as †‡†

  14. Mater Suspiria Vision

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    23,958 listeners

    Mater Suspiria Vision is a worldwide collective founded by producer, filmmaker and artist Cosmotropia de Xam. The band's debut release, Second…

  15. Crim3s

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    106,227 listeners

    Crim3s are an English electronic duo formerly known as Story of Isaac from London. The group consists of Rou Rot and Sadie Pinn, who met while…

  16. ✝ DE△D VIRGIN ✝

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    18,832 listeners

    △▲

    NEWEST - http://www.mediafire.com/?i0mbfpuar6rlamb

    http://www.mediafire.com/?8s33d8ci9yi0pyb

    http://www.mediafire.com/?xedafgvlsfjcxjv…

  17. Summer of Haze

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    59,513 listeners

    Summer of Haze.

    Their first three songs were released last year for free. Two self-released EPs followed: Hazy Memories and I▼You, which included…

  18. Bl▲ck † Ceiling

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    24,501 listeners

    This is the same as BL4CK C3ILING and BLVCK CEILING.

    Producer and musician based in Spokane, Washington.
    (Previously also known as Dan Ocean)…

  19. Pictureplane

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    118,400 listeners

    Pictureplane is the stage name of electronic musician Travis Egedy. He first appeared in the music scene of Denver, Colorado, making a name for…

  20. Clams Casino

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    349,156 listeners

    Clams Casino is the pseudonym of New Jersey resident Michael Volpe, who has shot from relative obscurity to production sensation thanks to a…

  21. Sleep ∞ Over

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    87,820 listeners

    SLEEP ∞ OVER is Stefanie Franciotti from Austin, TX. Franciotti is also a member of Silver Pines.

    Sleep ∞ Over was formed in early 2010 in Austin TX.…

  22. GuMMy†Be▲R!

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    18,948 listeners

    GuMMy†Be▲R! is the stage name of experimental Music Producer & DJ Chris Johnson.

    http://soundcloud.com/gummy-bear…

  23. ▼▲▼vagina vangi

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    13,118 listeners

    Vagina Vangi (nowadays renamed to HAARPS) is a russian witch-house project formed in the end of 2010 by Ilya Arkhipov. The first EP, "Benighted…

Sours: https://www.last.fm/tag/witch+house/artists

Why Witch House is the Best Genre You’ve Never Heard Of

When it comes to music, the range of genres shows just how intense and immersive the creation of sound and melody. Branching out further from the standard genres that populate music festivals, the radio, and Spotify’s charts, are a series of microgenres that create a niche cult following. One such microgenre is witch house music. But, what exactly is witch house music, and how is it gaining traction with fans?

What is Witch House?

As its name suggests, witch house music is a microgenre spawned from the expansive electronic genre that focuses on predominantly discordant chopped and screwed downtempo droning. The microgenre takes samples of Foley used in construction, industry, and the atmosphere to create ethereal and supernatural sounding melodies. Synthesizers, interesting instruments, and distorted vocals are also used in order to create music that breaks the boundaries of what music is traditionally known for. According to Vulture, witch house is able to convey a form of raw emotion that mainstream genres only touch upon – similar to the early 2000s popularity of nu-metal as a way for angsty teens to express themselves.

Who are the Players of Witch House?

Like most microgenres, certain artists emerge as the poster bands that allow new fans to learn their work and develop a cult following that attracts their audiences to the genre as a whole. Blvck Ceiling are a trendsetting band in the witch house genre, who use imagery related to the occult and soundscapes that make the listener think to eschew the experimental aspects of the microgenre. Their Gagaocean Max Beta remix features songs from Lady Gaga, whose songs are no stranger to Casino Online Canada settings, while their range of albums such as Ghost EP, Rogue, and Trap Magic evoke imagery of the occult. Moreover, Salem, aptly named for the Massachusetts witch trials, are also a pioneering band of the genre. Their song Trapdoor was even featured on 2012 Ryan Gosling flick The Place Beyond the Pines. As many witch house artists release remixes of other songs, identifying new bands in the genre can be done in a natural way, via discovering a new form of music built around an old favorite song. WIKAN lead the charge in the UK and have performed their brand of witch house music throughout Europe, hoping to extol its virtues on the masses. Though Talk Less Say More, with their form of ethereal ambience that samples David Lynch’s Twin Peaks shows us that there are degrees of just how supernatural the music can be in the genre.

How does Witch House Appeal to Fans?

But the artists of witch house go one step further in order to help bridge the gap for fans of other similar music genres. By using samples of other songs, and even from more obscure elements of the supernatural world that the genre connects with – from The Blair Witch Project, Charmed and Twin Peaks – witch house evokes feelings of the paranormal. But the genre also utilises back-masking of other songs, such as hip hop, rock, and rap. For example, threeam sample t.A.T.u’s All the Things She Said; Heretics remix Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe, while Johny Tiger remixes Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box. Back-masking features playing a popular song backwards in order to subconsciously use the imagery it evokes while not having the listener actively aware of the connotations. The technique plays on the nostalgia factor and familiarity, which according to online casino Betway can help draw pathways in the brain to endear us to one thing we associate with something we know from the past. By connecting the music genre with facets of pop culture or even other music, fans can discover the genre and feel better connected to it.

The Imagery of Witch House

Another aspect of witch house that doesn’t necessarily correspond to other genres is the use of imagery in the band names and on the band’s artwork that gives a deeper and more immersive experience of listening to the music. Much in the same way The Beatles have fans who praise their clever album artwork, and pop stars such as Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande have scholars of their music videos, the artwork, band image, and band typography further utilizes the occult and supernatural vibes that witch house aims to evoke.

Witch house may not be a microgenre of music that would appeal to everyone – but, with its growing prevalence in certain spheres and its connection to other music and pop culture, the audience and fanbase are growing. The term witch house has existed for around 10 years already and, as the way in which music is consumed changes and evolves, more fans and potential fans are able to access the microgenre. While some of the darker themes of witch house won’t be played on the charts, the genre is definitely benefitting from the revival of the spooky soundscapes.


Mike Mineo

 

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].



More articles by Mike Mineo »

Sours: https://www.obscuresound.com/2018/04/why-witch-house-is-the-best-genre-youve-never-heard-of/
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Witch house (genre)

Electronic music genre and visual aesthetic

Witch house is a dark, occult-themed electronic musicmicrogenre and visual aesthetic that emerged in the late 2000s and early 2010s.[1][2] The music is heavily influenced by chopped and screwedhip-hop soundscapes, industrial and noise experimentation, and features use of synthesizers, drum machines, obscure samples, droning repetition and heavily altered, ethereal, indiscernible vocals.

The witch house visual aesthetic includes occult, witchcraft, shamanism, terror and horror-inspired artworks, collages and photographs as well as significant use of hidden messages and typographic elements such as Unicode symbols.[3][4] Many works by witch house visual artists incorporate themes from horror films such as The Blair Witch Project,[5] the television series Twin Peaks,[6] horror-inspired dark web videos and mainstream pop culture celebrities. Common typographic elements in artist and track names include triangles, crosses and Unicode symbols, which are seen by some as a method of keeping the scene underground and harder to search for on the Internet as well as references to the television series Twin Peaks and Charmed.[7][8]

Influences and style[edit]

Despite the name of the genre, witch house does not bear many similarities to house music, instead applying techniques rooted in chopped and screwedhip-hop—drastically slowed tempos with skipping, stop-timed beats[9]—from artists such as DJ Screw,[10] coupled with elements from other genres such as ethereal wave, noise, drone, and shoegaze.[11][12] Witch house is also influenced by 1980s ethereal wave bands such as Cocteau Twins,[13] as well as being heavily influenced by certain industrial and experimental bands, such as Psychic TV and Coil.[14][15] The use of hip-hop drum machines, noise atmospherics, creepy samples,[16] dark synthpop-influenced lead melodies, dense reverb, and heavily altered, distorted, and pitched down vocals are the primary attributes that characterize the genre's sound. The genre rose to prominence in the early 2010s with renewed interest in individually produced electronic music and internet subcultures- rising with the increasing tide of genres such as seapunk and vaporwave.

Reaction[edit]

Witch-House music has been quoted as being provocative and transgressive in nature. The genre is characterized as dark, transgressive, and that which blends the line between abrasive and harmonic. Many artists in the genre have released slowed-down and backmaskedremixes of pop and hip-hop songs,[10] or long mixes of different songs that have been slowed down significantly.

Origins and etymology[edit]

The term witch house was coined in 2009 by Travis Egedy, who performs under the name Pictureplane.[17][18] The name was originally conceived as a joke,[19][20][21] as Egedy explains: "Myself and my friend Shams... were joking about the sort of house music we make, [calling it] witch house because it’s, like, occult-based house music. ...I did this best-of-the-year thing with Pitchfork about witch house.... I was saying that we were witch house bands, and 2010 was going to be the year of witch house.... It took off from there. ...But, at the time, when I said witch house, it didn’t even really exist..."[19] Shortly after being mentioned to Pitchfork, blogs and other mainstream music press began to use the term. Flavorwire said that despite Egedy's insistence, "the genre does exist now, for better or worse".[22]

Some music journalists, along with some members of musical acts identified as being in the genre's current movement, consider witch house to be a false label for a micro-genre, constructed by certain publications in the music press (including The Guardian, Pitchfork and various music blogs).[23][24] The genre was also briefly connected to the term rape gaze, the serious use of which was publicly denounced by its coiners, who never expected it to be used as an actual genre,[25][26] but viewed it as simply a joke intended to mock the music press' propensity towards the creation of micro-genres.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^Wright, William (July 2010). "The Rise of Generation Cult". SuperSuper!. Vol. 21. SuperSuper Ltd. pp. 8–18.
  2. ^Hockley-Smith, Sam (27 October 2017). "Why It's Time to Reconsider Witch House". Vulture. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  3. ^Necci, Marilyn Drew (9 August 2010). "Witch House: Listen with the Lights On". RVA Magazine. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  4. ^Davis, Ben (21 December 2010). "WITCH HOUSE ▲ESTHETICS". Synconation. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  5. ^"Murder Dog Magazine - Volume 17 #3 - Special Feature:Witch House (Page 87)". Murder Dog Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  6. ^Dom, Pieter (14 April 2011). "Witch House And Okkvlt Guide To Twin Peaks". Welcome to Twin Peaks. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  7. ^Baxter, Jason (20 October 2010). "What is the "Witch House Font?" | Line Out". Lineout.thestranger.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  8. ^Jovanovic, Rozalia (19 January 2011). "How To Be a Witch House Poser". Flavorwire. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  9. ^Lindsay, Cam (31 January 2011). "The Translator - Witch House". Exclaim.ca. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  10. ^ abCaramanica, Jon (4 November 2010). "DJ Screw's Legacy: Seeping Out of Houston, Slowly". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  11. ^Watson, William Cody (12 September 2010). "Slow Motion Music". Impose Magazine.
  12. ^Rees, Thomas (18 November 2010). "oOoOO: Christopher Greenspan Joins the New Wave of Ethereal Electro-Pop Makers While Sidestepping the Name Game". XLR8R. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  13. ^Wright, Scott (9 March 2010). "Scene and heard: Drag". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  14. ^Marshalek, Russ (22 September 2010). "Haunted: A Witch House Primer". Flavorwire. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  15. ^Maness, Carter (25 August 2010). "Brooklyn's Vanishing Witch House: White Ring and CREEP burn your trends and have real music to show for it". Nypress.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  16. ^Sokol, Zach (1 February 2011). "The Witch House Debate: Is †he Music Genre Wor†h ∆ Lis†en? · NYU Local". Nyulocal.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  17. ^Lhooq, Michelle (18 June 2015). "Teens, Drugs, and HIV Jokes: Welcome to Witch House in Russia". Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  18. ^Todd Pendu (8 November 2010). "The Genesis of Naming a Genre: Witch House". Pendu Sound. Archived from the original on 4 February 2019.
  19. ^ abNguyen, Tuyet (30 December 2010). "This is witch house | Music | The A.V. Club Denver/Boulder". Avclub.com. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  20. ^Huston, Johnny Ray (1 June 2011). "Weird emergence". Sfbg.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  21. ^P.J. Nutting (30 December 2010). "Which house for witch house?". Boulderweekly.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  22. ^Hawking, Tom (7 September 2011). "State of the Witch House: Predicting the Controversial Genre's Future". FlavorWire. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  23. ^"Brooklyn's Vanishing Witchhouse". New York Press. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  24. ^ ab"The Horrifyingly Named Micro-Genre "Rape Gaze" Explained". Village Voice. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  25. ^Fitzmaurice, Larry (8 October 2010). "Salem - King Night". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  26. ^"Pitchfork Backtracks on 'Rape Gaze' Because Creep Said So". The Daily Swarm. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_house_(genre)

Whatever happened to witch house?

Witch house lived up to its eerie name when it ghosted into existence and, for the briefest of moments, cast a spell over alternative culture. It was 2009 when the shadowiest of all micro-genres was born – a dirty cauldron stew of screwed beats, scorched synths and nods to the occult, forged on the internet by bedroom musicians with a penchant for the dark web and shamanism.

For a short time, it was the sound of the American electronic underground, thundered into the zeitgeist by bands like Salem. The UK's Guardian newspaper called it an “intriguingly queasy” potion made from “nerve-jangling samples and bad-dream sounds.” And before too long it infiltrated the mainstream. In 2011, Beyonce danced in a L'Oréal ad to the strained sonics of Tri-Angle artist Balam Acab's See Birds. Two years later, Katy Perry scored a US Number One with a single, Dark Horse, that borrowed heavily from witch house. Then, almost as quickly as it had wafted in, the sound seemed to disappear.

Or so the story goes. Ten years after the emergence of witch house, it's seldom discussed anymore, filed next to cloud rap and nu-rave as another of the millennium’s flash-in-the-pan sounds and subcultures. But what if it never went away? What if it now just bubbles under the surface of popular music, only under different names? This is the theory of Travis Egedy, the New York artist who creates music under the name Pictureplane, and who's credited with creating the term 'witch house' in the first place.

Travis Egedy, aka Pictureplane, living up to witch house type below

“The term started an in-joke,” Egedy remembers. “I said it in an interview with Pitchfork and it just sort of snowballed from there.” The name was coined in a conversation with his fellow underground artist Shams – a playful pun on house music, though what witch house came to represent had very little to do with club culture.

“At that time, there was what I like to call 'rainbow rock': hyper-bright artists like Animal Collective and Dan Deacon making really colourful music,” says Egedy. Witch house, with its spooky sonics and shadowy visuals, inverted the kaleidoscopic psychedelia favoured by these artists. “It became a new aesthetic within underground electronic music. It was dark, where rainbow rock wasn't dark.”

Critics would laugh about it, even though there was really serious, amazing music being made

Travis Egedy

That aesthetic caught fire among DIY artists exposed to the scene on platforms like MySpace, who were suddenly able to make music at home, thanks to easily pirated music software. “It was an explosion,” says Egedy. “There was, at the time, an amazing network of DIY warehouses and raves and shows happening all across America. And at the same time, bedroom electronic music was really blossoming. People were making music in their bedroom with synthesisers and new software that made it really easy to do.”

“Any kid could download a pirated version of Fruity Loops or Reason,” agrees Bryan Kurkimilis, of New York witch house band White Ring. Just like it did in the 'blog house' micro-genre that came before witch house, this democratisation of technology meant more people dabbling in stranger types of music, with more scope for experimentation. “It was the same across the board. If you were a young rap producer, you didn’t need an Akai MPC anymore; you could do it on the computer your mum had in your basement.”

A photo of Clams Casino performing live in Amsterdam in 2016.

The result was a new generation of music makers taking sounds they loved and testing their boundaries. For previous generations, recording in a studio, with an expensive engineer on the clock and every hour pushing you closer to financial peril, there wasn’t time for experimentation. For this new gen, working from home, on software downloaded for free, there was time to toy around, “while retaining the soul of the older bands they were inspired by,” Kurkimilis says.

Witch house coincided, too, with the rise of Tumblr, which swarmed with its own new-generation goth community. This new micro-genre, with its “vibe of chaos magic, magical freedom and anarchy,” as Egedy refers to it, inspired musicians belonging to that community, as artists began to surface whose music captured a certain mood – menacing, but beautiful.

We weren’t actual magicians in black robes with pentagrams surrounding us

Travis Egedy

Salem were soon joined by critically acclaimed acts like Holy Other, Purity Ring, oOoOO (pronounced “Oh”) and London’s Crim3s. The Guardian, the New York Times and others were suddenly reporting on this new wave of occult-inspired electronic music, none of them quite sure exactly where the genre’s boundaries lay. Was The Haxan Cloak a witch house artist? How about A$AP Rocky producer Clams Casino, they asked? Publications missed the genre’s inherent humour, too.

“It wasn’t pretentious. We were just having fun. It was tongue-in-cheek,” says Egedy. “Obviously, we weren’t actual magicians in black robes with pentagrams surrounding us.”

Journalists met witch house artists – who often stylised their stage names with strange symbols, like GL▲SS †33†H and ///▲▲▲\\\ – with suspicion. “People didn’t know whether to take it seriously. There was this hesitation for critics, who’d laugh about it, even though there was really serious, amazing music being made. There was a resistance to it from a critical standpoint,” Egedy recalls.

A photo of Danny Brown performing at Movement in Detroit on 26 May 2019.

It struck a chord with listeners anyway. Salem became cult sensations, soundtracking scenes in Ryan Gosling movies and in UK teen dramas like Skins. Crystal Castles, who borrowed from witch house, became indie titans, collaborating with Robert Smith from The Cure and ending up on UK music publication NME’s best albums of the decade list. By 2012, witch house had blotted out the hyper-bright neons of nu-rave and 'rainbow rock', scrawling charcoal black across the jagged border between indie and electronic underground music.

Eventually, though, witch house faded from the cultural conversation, replaced by Tumblr-approved seapunk as the music press’s flavour-of-the-month micro-genre. But its influence had taken root, says Egedy. Its poison already in effect. Witch house was one of the key inspirations for Kanye West’s abrasive 2013 album Yeezus, which set the blueprint for the next five years of hip-hop to come (Salem’s Jack Donoghue is in fact credited as a co-producer of that record’s lead single, Black Skinhead). As a result, witch house is still alive today in hip-hop, evident in the caustic, synth-led songs of Travis Scott and Danny Brown.

“I see the influence hugely in rap music today. The dark electronic beats, the lyrical content – a band like Salem, with their really crushing lo-fi synths and trap beats, had a massive influence on what we’re hearing now,” says Egedy. “That sonic template of blown-out, gothy electronic sounds.”

The Grammy-winning, all-conquering musician Billie Eilish.

Kurkimilis agrees, describing the way the sound haunts contemporary hip-hop as an example of influences coming full circle. Witch house artists, he says, were as inspired by the DIY approach of early rap pioneers as much as by spectral-sounding artists like the Cocteau Twins. Its slow tempos and narcotic undertow were heavily indebted to the chopped and screwed Houston hip-hop of the ‘90s, too. So perhaps it’s fitting that rap has ended up inspired by witch house. “All of the original witch house artists grew up listening to hip-hop. In a weird way, it’s like a form of genuinely appreciative cultural appropriation: taking something you have a genuine love for but that you don’t want to bastardise, so you twist it instead.”

It’s not just hip-hop that witch house has influenced. “You see it everywhere,” continues Kurkimilis. “In soundtracks, and in the aesthetics of pop acts like Billie Eilish. I definitely see an amped-up, morphed version of those original ideas.”

It makes sense that it's stuck around: the concept behind witch house, after all, is as enticing now as it was a decade ago. It stemmed from “realising that reality is mutable, and that you can create your own world and reality,” as Egedy puts it. The name may not have endured, but its murky sonics still haunt contemporary mainstream music, providing a darkness to get lost in.

Sours: https://www.redbull.com/int-en/whatever-happened-to-witch-house

Music witch house

Why It’s Time to Reconsider Witch House

In TV, movies, and real life, women have been at the forefront of the year’s biggest stories — so this Halloween season, we’re looking at pop culture’s most wicked depictions of female power.

In 2000, nu-metal band Papa Roach released a video for the song “Broken Home.” It’s about the fallout of a divorce, and like Papa Roach’s previous single, “Last Resort,” it was written specifically to appeal to teenagers going through very real emotional trauma. In one scene in the video, lead singer Jacoby Shaddix scream-cries while pounding the ground and grabbing fistfuls of sand next to a forlorn tire swing. Say what you want about “Broken Home,” or about nu metal in general, but Papa Roach were huge for a reason, and that reason has to do with their ability to convey the illusion of uncontrollable emotion. In other words, sad songs like “Broken Home” sell sadness, and when they’re successful, it’s because the sadness feels real.

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Witch house, a subgenre of electronic music, sounds nothing like Papa Roach, but it was able to convey unfiltered emotion in similar ways. It was successful because it sounded sort of terrifying, and it was briefly popular — from 2009 through a little bit of 2010 — because everyone wants to be a little bit terrified sometimes. The genre’s day in the sun went by so fast that most of the artists lumped into it didn’t even have time to release an album during its short-lived heyday. Still, witch house was popular because it sold a mood — an unsettling mix of sadness, melodrama, fear, and paranoia — and if you made music that could be lumped into that weird mood mixture, then you, too, could become a practitioner of witch house. The problem was, no one could quite settle on what witch house was supposed to be, but everyone was sure they didn’t want to be part of it.

With the benefit of distance, it feels fairly obvious which bands were witch house and which were actually just experimenting with electronic music. At the time, though, the genre was appropriately murky. If you had a symbol in your name, you were witch house. If you made music anonymously, you were witch house. If your music had drums that sounded like they’d be more at home on a Three 6 Mafia song, you were witch house. The reality was that witch house was a blend of a couple of different musical ideas: shoegaze mixed with an admirable reverence for the psychedelic, chopped, and screwed mixtapes of Houston’s DJ Screw. Blurry synth and guitar tones were stretched and reversed, and vocals, if they existed at all, were largely unintelligible, mangled and slowed into a soupy moan.

The origin of the name is not as clear as it probably should be. The dominant story is that Travis Egedy, a Denver musician who records as Pictureplane, came up with the name as a joke in 2009. “Witch house” stuck because no one else could figure out what to call the dark electronic music that had cropped up as a reaction to the zonked-out stoner jams that were championed by chillwave artists like Washed Out. Other names also floated around, like “drag,” referring to the way sounds were stretched to the point of distortion, before the deeply regrettable period when musicians Lauren Flax and Lauren Dillard, who at the time were playing music as Creep, jokingly listed the genre as “Rape Gaze” on their Myspace page. In a 2010 Village Voice interview, Flax explained how it was a joke taken out of context. After the interview was published, she wrote in to explain further:

I just wanted to add something. I definitely didn’t express enough that we do not take the term “rape” lightly and would never want to advocate sexual violence against any human being. It was a play on words which we never expected to be used as an actual genre. If there is anyone out there that we may have offended, we sincerely apologize.

While musicians and fans were collectively struggling with how to describe music like witch house that was built on uncomfortable ideas and themes — if not lyrically, then sonically — a three-piece group from Michigan called Salem became the unwilling figureheads of the genre. Over warbly keys and ominous, claustrophobic bass tones, Salem’s earliest tracks were often gorgeous and unsettling. They all sounded like unfinished demos, or like the trio had built the skeleton of a track but forgot to finish it.

Though critical reception was initially positive, the more Salem did, the harsher the reactions got. Jack Donoghue — who provided much of the vocals for the group — made the decision to sometimes pitch his vocals down and start rapping. He was accused of trying to “sound black,” and after a bad performance at the FADER Fort during SXSW, Salem went from being widely critically acclaimed to being parodies of themselves. The internet hype cycle subsumed them and spit them out before they could even figure out what they were doing. Salem’s experience was echoed by witch house as a whole: The genre was so identifiable that artists proliferated at a rapid rate, and what sounded unique started to pretty quickly feel ridiculous.

It didn’t help that what felt like hundreds of witch house bands began popping up. A band called White Ring sounded almost exactly like Salem, and others, like oOoOO, managed to nail the oppressive darkness that Salem wielded, but couldn’t maintain much of the dynamics. Even Deftones front man Chino Moreno got involved with a side project called ††† (pronounced Crosses). You had to be careful how you typed, though, because there was also a producer named †‡†, which was somehow pronounced Rrritualzzz. The writing was on the wall: The aesthetics that helped define witch house had become more important than the actual sonics. Moreno’s project actually sounded nothing like witch house, and even Clams Casino — a rap producer who made a name for himself working with Lil B and A$AP Rocky, and later produced on Vince Staples’s excellent 2015 album Summertime ’06 — was thrown in with everyone else. It’d be easy to say that witch house lost the plot, but the reality was that there wasn’t much of a plot to begin with.

It would be remiss of me to not mention my involvement in the genre. I first blogged about Salem in 2008, and championed them for years afterward. In 2015, I covered its rise and fall for Grantland. Though witch house’s tendrils would stretch beyond its closed circle of collaborators (Donoghue was involved with Kanye West’s Yeezus), and dedicated fans still populate message boards, any cohesion or scene surrounding it is now virtually nonexistent. This is not surprising — it happens to every subgenre of music ever — but witch house was defined by the fact that it never moved beyond a work-in-progress. It was the sound of a bunch of people trying to figure something out.

By the time Salem released King Night, their lone LP, in 2010, listeners were moving on. There are unfortunate moments on the album, but years later, the highs are high. Closing track “Killer” is a guitar-centric downer anthem that pointed to where Salem could have gone next (their subsequent EP, I’m Still the Night, didn’t really expand on the promise of “Killer,” but its cover of Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone” never got the credit it deserved). Other songs on the album played with dynamics in interesting ways — Salem were known for making music so blown out that you had to excavate for details in dense layers of sound — but tracks like “Hound” shaped that denseness into jittery washes of noise. It sounds like all the air getting sucked out of a room.

Looking back, it’s clear that witch house happened because a new crop of artists had the entire history of recorded music at their fingertips. Everything — everything — was suddenly fair game. Any sense of linear musical history was washed away in favor of genre-less, boundary-less experimentation. Everyone was trying everything, and without the artificial restriction of genre, it was a miracle that anyone ever made anything cohesive. Though the music that was categorized as witch house was dour, the enthusiasm for experimentation was palpable and exciting.

So why did we mock it into oblivion? Why do we mock anything? Is it possible that we were ashamed to enjoy music that so directly considered sadness and darkness? Papa Roach and the rest of nu metal were defined by their acceptance and empathy for adolescent rage. Over time, the nu-metal bands slowly limped back into the critical conversation, usually after some time away, or a heel-turn toward middle-of-the-road echoes of alt-rock. It’s no longer embarrassing to say you like Deftones or a sizable portion of Korn’s back catalogue. Knowing that all musical trends come in cycles, we’re in for a witch house revival in just a few years, if not sooner. For now, I’m going to jump the gun: Witch house had some clunky moments, but the nascent genre’s ability to convey despair, hopelessness, and uncertainty at what the future will hold was dead-on. Maybe the genre just needed more time to grow, and the currently en vogue collective embrace of nihilism to thrive.

Related

Why the Witch Is the Pop-Culture Heroine We Need Right Now
Why It’s Time to Reconsider Witch HouseSours: https://www.vulture.com/2017/10/witch-house-music-salem-a-reconsideration.html
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