OK this is going to be the last stuff i´m going to post on Lo-Fi/ hauntology twiddly nonsense for a while. After this it will only be Severed Crotch and Justin Bieber on infinite repeat…. for the next 3 months!
So you know how it is. You´re riding the music blog zeitgeist and you notice a trend forming among certain bands that share a similar aesthetic, sound and image. It has already been given a genre title and you start to put some notes together. Even this weekend you think to yourself “hey i should write a post about it on the farm”. And THEN your idol and general bastard of the skies, Warren Ellis goes and posts about it before you do! with a follow-up post about it the day after. That man is seriously ruining my life from a great distance!
Of course i´m talking about the NEW genre hitting the hipster internet music circles and it has been termed “witch house” (or Witch Trance, Witch Dub, Ghost Trance, Haunted Hypnagogia, depending on which day of the week it is.)
What is this “Witch House” you may ask. Well it´s basically is a hotchpotch of slightly different sounds. Low end squelchy darkwave bass synths, processed beatbox beats on a syrupy loop, slowed down and manipulated voice samples and vocals, a dash of dissonant ambient noise, a pinch of shoegaze and topped off with some serious epilepsy inducing videos and images!
I first became aware of this darker hynpagogic sound last year when i picked up 2 albums, “megafauna” by Yoga and “Salem EP” by Salem. Yoga has that sound that you would get from those early 80´s Italian zombie horror movies, but smeared and stretched with a layers of processed dark ambient noise over it, a bit like it was a really bad tape recording you took from the TV in 1983. Salem on the other hand, is a simple downtempo synth song with crunchy, distorted beats and echoed, spaced out vocals.
Over the last few months, this area of music has grown into a bit of a burgeoning community with it´s own LAST.fm group with about 30 linked acts. there is also a record label (Disaro Records) that release stuff from the majority of said acts. So what the main connecting strands with witch house then?
So $%/(/(%&/⊆ℜ▲▲ is my new band name. Want me to spell it?
The first thing you notice are the band names. Some names are fairly normal and have an occult connotation. Salem, Modern Witch, Mater Suspiria Vision, white ring, etc…. But most of the bands have an obsession with using obscure symbols and syntax in their names. For example, you´ve got PWIN ▲▲ TEAKS, tw<TITght>ZoNe, Gr†LLGR†LL, †‡†, oOoOO, ///▲▲▲\\\ and ℑ⊇≥◊≤⊆ℜ. And there are plenty more wilfully abstract names like that. It all ends up looking like the /b/ forum on 4chan. There are a couple of reasons for this methinks. One is that you can´t search these names up on google (try it. You won´t get very far), which create a sense of ambiguity and mysteriousness. (or perhaps they’re just being pretentious cocks). The second is that it gives the look of ancient pagan symbols and hieroglyphs, linking back to this whole Witch house terminology.
The second thing about witch house is it´s use of imagery and video in conveying it´s message. Most of these artists won´t let their faces be shown, often blurring out their faces and using photoshopped images. They also splice symbols of paganism and Satanism with religious and nature images so that their MySpace pages often resemble a freaking nightmare of bleeding collages that even my tumblr feed would never see in a million years. This also occurs with their videos, mixing segments of trashy horror films and 70´s sleazploitation with warped new age graphics and weird pagan symbols. Often they resemble something dredged from the dark depths of Andy Warhol and Derek Jarmans waking dreams.
Now some of this witch house genre i don’t care for and most of it will surely fall by the wayside before the year is out (in particular i didn´t take to modern witch). But some of it isn´t too bad (Tearist, ///▲▲▲\\\ and †‡† are worth a listen). i do feel that this is certainly the start of the bridging of all that Hypnagogic wilful lo-fi noise and the nod to occult folklore that occurs in hauntology. i definitely expect the likes of pitchfork and Wire magazine to go apeshit over this stuff this summer months and announce it “the future of music”. I don´t think my mother will go for it though…