Prepare a base of Hip Hop and Goth and Industrial Rock with some Crunk, Shoegaze and Cold Wave spices. Cook it using a few voices in between ambient and demonic styles. Mix it with a gigantic crystal of codeine and put it in your head at least four hours at -72 bpm. If it sounds interesting to you stay tuned. If you’re expecting to find the hit of the summer here this may not be your place.
The origin of the movement is as mysterious and indecipherable as the names of the bands attached to this music genre and eclectic is their imagery. The term, Witch House, appeared first back in 2009 on the internet when Pitchfork-Media used it as a description of the occult-based house music that Travis Egedy and his friends were doing at the time.
Egedy described Witch House as follows:
“It’s a joke.
Myself and my friend Shams—he makes house music, too— we were joking about the sort of house music we make and we were calling it ‘Witch House’…different people started posting about it on blogs, and it sort of became an internet meme. Then someone attached the name Witch House to the sound that some bands were making—the slowed down, spooky, goth juke kind of stuff—but, at the time, when I said Witch House, it didn’t even really exist…”
It was a joke but it wasn’t. From this dark joke sprouted a new musical movement. The basis from which Witch House was founded, also known as Rape Gaze, Drag or Haunted House, dates back to the 90’s. It is deeply influenced by the elements of the Houston music scene and the style known as “chopped and screwed” but includes a larger number of references.
Among the influences, we can find elements of Hip Hop, in bits slowed to exhaustion, endless repetitions inspired by Drone and spectral voices ranging from the eerie beauty of Dark Ambient music to a twisted kind of Dream Pop. The rest of the arrangement is focused on using so much distortion that sometimes you can barely appreciate what is beyond the strength of their darkest tones. The eclecticism is so brutal in between some of these bands that the only element which connects each one to the rest of them is the fact that, if you spend a whole afternoon listening to these guys you’ll start to see the oven as the perfect spot to place your head, the window like a dreamy diving platform and the lamp as what you were looking for to use for bungee jumping with your neck.
This is hype and and this is not. The claim that underlies many of these projects has a strong underground element. Starting with band names, such as GL▲SS †33†H, Ritualz †‡† o CVL† SH‡† using the symbols of ASCII code (a character-encoding scheme) we can get the idea that there is a really deliberate tendency to make the searching and discovery of these bands in any internet browser almost impossible. Other bands like S4lem, ▲It Ends In Death▲ or Crim3s may have a simpler recognizable names but their albums and song titles describe such a perfect picture of how much darkness and despair we can find inside of them.
The imagery is so diverse that sometimes it’s just the emotion of their music what makes you relate it directly to this style. Do not expect to find video clips with some happy images of Sesame Street or The Muppets Show or maybe you should, after all Witch House is meant to be a infectious idea that gets into your head and transfers you to a disturbing world…as a powerful feeling that draws you inside of an abandoned house searching for exciting emotions without considering the terrifying journey that you are going to experience.
This is depression and this is not. It’s only intended to make you discover that this feeling is already inside of you and it looks for ways to twist your guts to awaken in you an abstract concept midway between sadness and paranoia. Everything is painted in black and white, like the old disturbing pictures of early last century have come to life and become the most frightening memories ever.
When you see those musicians, if you’re able to find the photos (though it is highly unlikely that you will) you can think that they are nothing but white trash with baggy clothes and gothic jewelry living in the middle of a bad trip. Maybe they won’t catch your attention even if you find them on the street next to you. Therein lies the concept of individuality found in its components mixed with the idea of camouflage that alienates simple curious and trend scouts.
This is not about drugs and yes, it is. There is strong connection with the use of certain drugs especially with some of the most powerful and dangerous types, not in vain one of the best EP of the band S4lem is called “Yes, I Smoke Crack” (7″ EP, 2008, Acéphale). It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that some of these artists use drugs not just for fun and inspiration. It’s part of their minds, their skins, and a big part of their life.
There are many critics and detractors to this genre, dubbing them as a kind of Goth hipsters claiming that they are just the new “flavor of the week”. They are focused on the duality idea of the eternal fight between underground and mainstream by calling them Pharisees. Anyway is not at all unreasonable to recognize the influence of this underground movement in some mainstream bands such as Crystal Castles which latest album has a strong influence very close to the sound of these bands.
Now music evolution pauses on the same endless discussion. Can we make anything fresh and new? Maybe the future is not on Witch House or maybe it is. Maybe not everything is a joke as Travis Egedy said almost five years ago. This could be a sickening twisted prank. One of this which sticks in your mind, taking so long to understand it or even make sense but…is this not the kind that last forever?