Whenever a new music micro-genre emerges from the blogosphere, much is made of labeling it with a catchy name. (Remember chillwave
?) One of the latest to emerge is “witch house,”
that’s typified by a blend of low tech Dirty South hip-hop beats, a heavy wall of synth, and a heaping dose of industrial drone. It’s definitely an “acquired” taste, but it’s here, so we offer a primer on three of the biggest players in the scene:
: Sometimes spelled “S4LEM,” the trio known as SALEM
is the most widely known witch house act, often acclaimed for its alternating male and female vocals. The female vocals by Heather Marlatt, typified in the haunting track “Brustreet,”
are shimmery and washed out. The male vocals, in stark contrast, are slurred and rapped by Jack Donoghue, as heard in the group’s remix of the These New Puritans’ “Hologram.”
The third member, John Holland, stays off the mic, but creates the lugubrious beats that define the group’s work. SALEM has garnered some high profile press
over the past several months. Fortunately for them, the concept of “overexposure” in witch house terms just means that they’ve actually given a few interviews.
: NYC band White Ring’s sound is exemplified by slow, deep bass and cold, skeletal beats programmed by Bryan Kurkimilis and the eerie vocals of singer Kendra Malia. There is an ethereal spookiness to their tracks that sits atop a window-rattling gangster beat. No track displays this better than their sinister “lxc999.”
Gunshot sound effects and creaking floorboards punctuate throughout, as Malia echoes, “Ice in her hand… snakes in her skin.” They released their first EP, Black Earth That Made Me,
this past fall, with Disaro
, a Houston-based label largely responsible for supporting witch house acts. However, the violent transcendence of their shuddering oeuvre certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.