Friday, April 15, 2011
†‡† - GHETTO ASS WITCH
Its funny that the term Witch House as a genre is just as polarizing as the music itself. Is it an actual genre representing multiple groups and musicians, or just a concoction of music media sites like Pitchfork and other music blogs to easily pigeonhole the music into its own neat category? I personally think the answer is somewhere in the middle. Witch House is by no means entirely creative or original, yet what is? It is heavily influenced by late 80's and early 90's industrial, not so much the instrumentation but in the feel and darkness of the music itself. At the same time it has a deep rap influence, particularly the chopped and screwed style made famous by DJ Screw. The resulting sound is mish mash of warbled synthesizers that wouldn't sound out of place in a DDR song alongside 8 bit sounding drum machines and slowed down voices. Personally I find enjoyment in the sound, but only to a certain extent.
The genre has always been somewhat tongue in cheek. One of the first tracks I hear that was labelled Witch House was IxC999 by White Ring. For those who haven't heard it, it is a lo fi sounding electro track with gunshot samples ala 2pac's Thug Luv. The track is dark, and yet seems to be aware of its own macho silliness. There is nothing wrong with self awareness though, in music, especially darker genre's, it can help lighten the mood when you know that the artist doesn't take things too seriously. A good example of what happens when you do the opposite can be seen in perhaps the biggest act to fall under the Witch House label, Salem. Their album from 2010, King Night, was very decisive. Some found it brilliant, such as The Chicago Tribune's music critic Greg Kot. Other's found it not so good, and borderline racist with tracks like Trapdoor promoting gangster lifestyle without an ounce of self awareness. My impression was that it was aware of its own silliness, until I learned of the groups live performances, which were self serious, condescending, and out and out terrrible.
Obviously †‡† are taking the opposite route, defusing any notions of self seriousness by naming their album GHETTO ASS WITCH (yes in caps) and putting a skeleton'esque girl in a bikini dancing on a red moon while Jesus looks on with an upside down cross on his head. You should definitely click on the at the top of the post to see the bigger version of the image, it is worth it. Silly? Yes. Ridiculous? Yes. But their is a part of me that for some reason likes the audacity of it. It emulates the No Limit album covers like Master P and Silkk The Shocker from the Late 90's, but with a decidedly Witch House bent to it. It is also fitting for what is contained on the album itself.
The album starts off with a punch, with spoken word vocals over huge synths and a bare bones hip hop beat. What hits you about the album, even on the first track, is how melodic it is compared to its peers. Also the production is spot on for the genre. Its not distractingly lo fi, like White Ring tends to be, yet its not completely in the red like Salem tends to be. Everything can be heard pretty clearly, and surprisingly it is actually musically interesting. The second track isn't as memorable, it sounds like someone sat down for about 10 minutes and wrote a rave track. It doesn't really have anything unique about it, it is just kind of there. And now on to the title track, which is hilarious and awesome. One part little girl vocals ala no wave bands like The Sick Lipstick, one part guy grunting GHETTO ASS WITCH over and over, one part big washed out synths. It definitely threw me through a loop first time I heard it, but I have to admit its growing on me in a cheesy kind of way. Whats not to love about lyrics like "fuckin with a pentagram I'm your sacrificial lamb" and "white girl problem I'm your fuckin three six", and a rapper named GVCCI-HVCCI?
However the strongest track on the album is also the least jokey. "Third Eye Sixth Sense" sounds like a soccer chant mixed with some kind of ceremony mixed with some kind of dark trance music. It also has a distinctive chiptune influence, and is evocative of some of the tracks off of the first Crystal Castles album.
GHETTO ASS WITCH is a step in the right direction for witch house. Its drops the blatent hip hop tough guy undertones and swaps them out for more evocative instrumentation, with an emphasis on synthesizers. It has vocals throughout the album, but not to where it distracts from the mood of the music as a whole. It only really has one track that I skip consistently, "Star Magick", which isn't awful, just boring. Also how can you NOT love an album with a cover like that?
Support the artist, buy it!
Posted by Ryan (Autech) at 10:42 AM