(2010 Sep 1) Pure Pop Online publishes '\\WITCH H▲USE – P▲RT ▲NE//'

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(2010 Sep 1) Pure Pop Online publishes '\\WITCH H▲USE – P▲RT ▲NE//'

Post by zin »

Original link:
https://web.archive.org/web/20100913071 ... -part-one/
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September 1st, 2010


Welcome to Witch House....

Yes, I know that Tanner already brought attention to this new genre on the Pure Pop blog back in April. However, seeing as Witch House has kind of been exploding lately (or at least making the transition from the web underground to the fringe, just-at-ground-level mainstream), I thought it might be an appropriate time to do an overview for those not in the know. This part of the article will deal with the origins of Witch House, exploring the genres and artists that influenced it, and discussing the genre’s conflict relationship with the internet. In part two, we will explore some of the genre’s key artists and labels, as well as discuss some of the exciting new Witch House releases coming in the late summer & early fall.

As is true of many genres in their infancy, Witch House is still trying to define itself, on many different levels. There’s even a lot of disagreement as to what to call this style of music (which in itself is pretty schizophrenic, as we’ll discuss later). While it has been tagged as “drag”, “ghost drone” and several other names (some unpronounceable), the brand of “Witch House” has really stuck for some reason. Most likely, because it captures the dichotomy of the genre quite accurately and succinctly--dark, yet danceable.

So now that we’ve decided on a name (at least for the sake of this article), what is “Witch House”? That, my friends, is a very difficult question to answer. There’s a lot of disagreement as to what constitutes the “Witch House” sound, and you often find artists who label themselves as witch house being accused of not being appropriate for the genre, while several key figures and founders of the witch house “movement” have tried their best to distance themselves from the tag altogether.

A good reason for this is that a big part of the Witch House philosophy thrives on the being anti-genre specific, sometimes even anti-auteur. It’s one of the most post-modern popular music formats, in that its combines a wide variety of genres (ranging from coldwave to post-punk goth rock to dubstep to experimental hip hop to lo-fi noise to mainstream pop and beyond) into a grand pastiche of sounds. While the end result is usually always dark and beat heavy, releases by different Witch House artists seldom sound even remotely similar. Even tracks by the same artist on the same album can sound incredibly disparate and eclectic.

Further expanding this concept of anonymity and collaboration is Witch House’s penchant for remixes and unpronounceable band names. The remixes certainly show an allegiance to the long history of sampling and collaborative reinvention in hip-hop production. In particular, there seems to be an allegiance (seen most blatantly with acts like SALEM and Balam Acab) to the “chopped and screwed” style of DJ Screw, with samples and rhythms slowed to completely warp the source material into a narcotic acoustic fog.

Alec Koone, aka Balam Acab

While Witch House is often referred to as one of the first “internet-born” genres, there seems to be a love-hate relationship between its artists and the web. On the one hand, the Witch House sound did gain initial distribution and prominence almost solely through MySpace sites, SoundCloud, download blogs, fan-created unauthorized “mixtapes”, etc. This is certainly nothing all that unique in itself, seeing as nearly every artist gets their first 15 minutes of fame from download blogs these days. The difference, however, comes in the intention and the distribution formats. While artists in other genres tend to record EPs or LPs, produce a physical and/or digital release, and then inevitably have the albums posted online (either with or without their consent), Witch House artists have (until just recently) used the internet as the primary, and almost exclusive, means of distribution. An artist would often just create one or two songs (or even just remixes of other artists’ songs) and post them on their MySpace page, and within a matter of days, hundreds of fans would download them, distribute them and create mixes with them. Several years after the genre began, you can still only count on two hands the number of artists with actual physical releases, even just extremely limited edition ones. (This is about to change, as we will discuss in part two of this article)

Making things even more interesting, most of the growing numbers of Witch House fans were not even discussing the individual artists amongst themselves…mainly because many of the bands releasing these tracks had utterly unpronounceable names. Try chatting with your buddy at work about ▲ or oOoOO or ///▲▲▲\\\ or GR†LLGR†LL. Believe me, I’ve tried; it’s no easy feat. What’s the reasoning for such nonsensical nomenclature? I think author Warren Ellis put it better than I ever could:
It occurred to me last night that having a name that Google can’t process well might actually be entirely deliberate. On the internet, there is no real underground anymore. So if you wanted to create an underground for yourself, the first thing you might do is generate a sort of lexical darknet by using keyterms search engines can’t parse.
A pretty astute observation on the bizarre relationship between Witch House and the internet that helped define and popularize it. In a lot of ways, it’s a genre biting the hand that fed it. Pretty punk, I guess.

So that’s it for part 1 on your intro to Witch House. In part two, we will discuss some of the genre’s founding artists, top labels, key releases so far and explore some of the influencers of the genre in more depth. Also, we will explore whether Witch House has the potential for growth or if this is just another flash-in-the-pan genre (as many predicted after SALEM’s disastrous performance as SXSW this year). Best of all, we’ll discuss some upcoming physical releases from some of Witch House’s top artists, some of which may end up on your “Best of 2010″ lists. Stay tuned!

(Jay Blanchard is the founder of MARS PYRAMID Records, an experimental record label run out of Burlington, VT. He also performs as VIKOMT).

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