There’s a chance you’ve never heard of witch house. Perhaps you’ve heard of it and think it sucks. Maybe you’re reading this as a hardcore fan. Nevertheless, it’s a genre that peaked sometime around 2010. I say “peaked” solely in the sense that Pitchfork and other indie music magazines went hysterical about it. Similar to vaporwave’s beginnings, producer PICTUREPLANE coined the genre’s name as a joke in 2009. Yet for better or worse, it caught on and the genre has stayed. Stylistically, the music is a mixture of shoegaze synths, industrial sound effects, and southern hip-hop/trap beats. You can hear this music from artists like Salem and labels like Tri Angle Records. While some critics hated some of the music, the indie scene seemed to love it. But in recent years, the genre appeared to have dissipated into the abyss.
However, witch house never really left. The scene is stronger than ever, and Florida-based label Grimoire proves it on their debut release, Six Feet Under. Tampa-based producer Self Perception founded Grimoire in May, yet has two releases from as early as 2015. As a producer, one of his tracks was promoted and viewed over 20,000 times on the Nightmares and 808s channel, which further gained him a release through the channel’s Night Terrors label. Currently sitting at 900 combined Facebook and SoundCloud followers, Grimoire’s goal is to “bring out the best in the [witch house] scene.” On their debut compilation, “Six Feet Under,” they appear to be succeeding. The six producers featured come from all over the world, yet are unified by a dark and sinister sound. Brace yourself: this is the kind of dance music for moonlit seances on Halloween night.
The unintelligible vocals and deep bass on Majestic Paw’s “With Me” kick off the compilation. The Dallas-based producer spins a dark tune that expertly combines creepy lo-fi synths with interesting sonic experimentation. Not to mention, the beats and bass thump hard. Jøshua Løper shimmers uplifting rave chords over hyperspeed beats on “Звезды Сталкиваются” (Russian for “Stars Collide,” I believe?). The glittery synths beautifully complement airy pads throughout, and overall, this is perhaps the EP’s most uplifting track. Next up, “Oracle” from D3Δ†H H3X brings a gothic tone and operatic vocals. Its atmospheric intro gives way to a massive beat and dissonant bass reminiscent of 2007’s dark, deep UK dubstep. Filters, screams, and distorted sounds constantly interject to unsettle the listener. Are you scared yet?
The distorted samples on BLAXLEEP’s “Nec’ro – Man’cy” help to continue the dark tone of the compilation. However, its combination of choral sounds, downtempo beats, and 80s darkwave synths may make you break out your old goth clothes and dark eyeliner. On BITWVLF’s “Orchid,” melancholy leads drift over rolling trap beats. While the bass-heavy groove is perfect for hip-hop rappers, the surreal atmosphere creates enough of a disturbing trip. Lastly, Clepsydra’s “Thunder Crunch,” begins with video-game strings, yet fools you with heavy bass and hypersaws at the drop. This shock is beautifully pulled off, but not as surprising as the hardstyle vibe at the track’s end. The beat begins changes to 4/4 time, and after a short build-up, intense kick drums pierce the jumping melody. Be prepared for the old jumpstyle dance.
Witch house is perhaps the most unexpected genre to reappear in 2017. Most of the music that tends to come from the scene appears cheesy and tacky. Indeed, the idea of combining Halloween synths with southern hip-hop and EDM sounds gawky. But on Six Feet Deep, there’s no cheesiness here. Each track’s production is top notch and very few sounds are out of place. The energy of EDM and gloominess of horror and dread ooze throughout. In surprising fashion, Grimoire has successfully curated a compilation of truly dark tunes. Whether you bump them at Halloween or in underground European clubs, it works equally well. This is a strong debut from the Grimoire label, and if they keep this energy up, they might revive the best qualities of witch house. If you’re looking for those sinister tunes to blast upon an unsuspecting crowd, this might be the best place to start.
Title: Six Feet Under
Artist: Various Artists
Genre: Electronic/trip-hop/EDM/witch house
Available to download at https://grimoiremusic.bandcamp.com/album/6-feet-deep!