Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 21:14
The internet proclaimed 2010 the year of the “Witch House”. The genre has been around for the past two years, and is picking up more mainstream attention as emerging artists can get labeled as witch house acts.
Origins of Witch House
The term “Witch House” was originally coined by Travis Egedy of the Denver-based act Pictureplane. He jokingly described the music of Pictureplane (occult house music)by the term, and proclaimed that 2010 would be the year of witch house, which was picked up quickly by the internet as a serious thought.
Quickly after its initial emergence, witch house started to be used for a version of chopped-and-screwed hip hop, as practiced by the codeine-addicted DJ Screw in the 90s, combined with noise, drone and shoegaze. The result is a nerve-wrecking slowed-down haunting type of music.
Salem, a group of 3 post-junkie depressed and apathetic tinkerers from Michigan, are at the forefront of the witch house movement. Their music is a horror-infused type of psychedelic experience, or an alternative soundtrack to the Blair Witch Project. Nonetheless, all the chopping and screwing and slowing down of samples is a gimmick that wears off very quickly.
The duo Creep has another take at witch house (or “rape gaze” as they initially named their music, and then excused for its unintended connection to sexual violence). With a more commercialized form of the genre that might work for those shuffling on a dark club floor, Creep have managed to work their way to the top of the genre.
Other noteworthy bands in the genre are oOoOO and white ring, that offer slightly more ear-pleasing sounds while keeping the codeine-infused syrupy approach to their stretched landscapes of random patterns and sounds.
Witch house bands rely on the use of occult aesthetics, add triangles and crosses into their band and track names, and generally tend to remain underground as much as they can. Some names of witch house bands are ℑ⊇≥◊≤⊆ℜ’s, †‡† (pronounced as “Rituals”), and B▲L▲M▲C▲B. Using unicode in the band names makes it harder to search for them on the internet, and is a another way to express their disagreement with our fast-paced, everything-within-a-click mentality. To bathe in even more obscurity, some of these bands refuse to be photographed, or even identified. The vibe is reclusive and reluctant, and for the artists that are interviewed, their answers tend to be random, apathetic and downright uninterested towards the rest of the world.
Many of the videos of witch house bands take the idea of stretching and slowing down music also to the visual aspects. A surreal result is for example the video of “if u cAn dR3Am – pRinc3ss3s”.
When Deftones' Chino Moreno released the EP †††, it was immediately coined as a witch house record. While the EP doesn't sound similar to the stretched out tracks of Salem (we can actually understand the lyrics clearly), the use of crosses and the overall aesthetics of the album, directly refer to the witch house movement. This deep, pumping and strangely catchy music now shows the way to the further development of the genre: the occult aesthetics are kept, the chopped-and-screwed slowed-down pace is still there, but there is focus to the tracks.
Nowadays, chill wave and witch house are becoming more closely related, and the slowed-down snippets and samples are mixed into a more pop-oriented, structured type of tracks, while the typical aesthetics of the bands is kept as their signature style.