Noah J Nelson on Wednesday, Mar. 30th
When is a genre not a genre? When no one can agree on the name.
I’m new to Witch House, like brand spanking new, and it was this post by writer/musician/transmedia practitioner Sparrow Hall which got me hooked:
I wanted to find something cheery for everyone on a Wednesday, so here it is.
A new sub-genre of electronic music made for people who like to bring strobe lights to the graveyard.
Which was enough to get me jumping down the rabbit hole. The broad outlines of the style has been around for a while now — people have been bringing the Goth to electronica with vocals since the 1990′s. Witch House has also been called drag, and at one point was nearly labeled “rape gaze” when the female Brooklyn duo Creep put the term up on their MySpace page and the New York Press ran with it. Creep now lists “Trip Hop” as their genre, which is undeniably part of the DNA here.
Like Sparrow, I think I’ll run with Witch House, not because “drag” brings to mind images of RuPaul (well, it kinda does), but for the Rockabilly connotations. Drag might be what Goth boys wear to Dark Wave infused raves, but it’s also how you race souped up muscle cars.
This wouldn’t be all that interesting if there wasn’t something stirring in the cultural cauldron vis-à-vis Witch House. That would be New York/London’s Tri Angle, a label that has gotten the attention of Pitchfork. The label has collected a rogue’s gallery of acts: Balam Acab and oOoOO rest gently within the genre that is not a genre. Meanwhile label mates How To Dress Well and Holy Other bring the same Dark Wave touches to R&B. Paul Lester of the Guardian UK picked Holy Other as the “New Band of The Day” in today’s column.
Christopher Dexter Greenspan, the San Francisco producer who is the “secret identity” of oOoOO, has been singled out as being at the forefront of Witch House. But the peg doesn’t even quite fit there. To get a feel for oOoOO (pronounced “oh”) start with the track Mumbai and progress to Burnout Eyess.
Perhaps when the global outlook looks grim, we turn to music that would sound great if we were dancing in a graveyard. Or it could just be that Witch House is the perfect antidote to being awakened by what sounds like a horrible mash-up of a hair band and German techno by your Austrian neighbor on a Wednesday morning.
Either way, I’m in.