Witch House is a genre of electronic and experimental music. There is a version that Travis Egedy (known as Pictureplane) gave the genre its name for the first time in 2009 to describe the music that he was creating with his friends. Witch House should not be confused with “Dark House” - a sub-genre of progressive house music that existed in 2000-2001.
At its beginning, Witch House was described as an occult-oriented genre of electronic music that often used visuals and audio samples related to the horror culture. It is worth noting that Witch House, despite the frequent misconceptions, has no direct relationship to any kind of religion, unlike some branches of the Black Metal music genre which are associated with satanism. Occult elements are used for aesthetic reasons to attract attention and emphasize the dark atmosphere of the genre.
Pitch changes, minimal percussions from TR-808 drum machines, and hooverish bass synths were commonly used by most Witch House producers, that made the sound slow and creepy, and because of this Witch House was sometimes confused with genres like “Vaporwave” and “Drone Ambient” which uses the same music production techniques. Also, Witch House can be considered as an industrial version of the “Electro Goth“ music genre as well. Contemporary pop songs or hits from the 80s and 90s are often remixed by Witch House artists, by heavily distorting, warping and editing the original samples, acapella, and sounds. Other elements of the 80s and 90s aesthetics, such as glitches and VHS visual effects or analog-style photos are widely present in the genre.
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Initially, Witch House band names and track titles contained a lot of triangles, crosses, and other Unicode characters, in order to make music harder to find and isolate Witch House from other music genres, to make it underground only, and to help to emphasize the individuality of the genre and its artists. However, this style choice had reverse and even negative effects for the development of the genre which is why the use of Unicode characters is largely decreasing.
The major influence on the formation of Witch House came from music genres such as Ambient, Darkwave, Industrial, Hip Hop and, to some extent, even Black Metal and gothic rock groups of the 80s like “The Cure” and “Christian Death”, or some experimental bands like “Coil” and “Psychic TV”.
The term “Witch House” was originally created as a joke and was originally used to describe Travis Egedy and his friends live music back in 2009. Soon after, the term “Witch House” was mentioned in Pitchfork Media, and music blogs and other music related media began to use the term more often. Another version states that this term was invented by a friend of the band “Salem” who participated in organizing their live shows.
In comparison to other music genres in the music industry, Witch House is a relatively young genre, but it is worth noting that there are already several important stages in its history and formation:
2008 - 2010
The release of the “Dark Rift” album by Pictureplane and “King Night” album by Salem is considered to be the birth of Witch House. Around the same time, White Ring and Rituals bands appeared, and they would later become cult bands of the genre.
During this time Witch House was considered to oppose to the new wave of pop music. Gloomy and unusual soundscapes, the use of unprocessed and harsh sounds, Unicode characters, and the wide presence of horror and dark album covers and artworks, became integral parts of the genre. Blvck Ceiling and Sidewalks and Skeletons can be identified as two of the major artists who made great contributions to the development of the genre in this period of time.
In addition, it is worth noting the appearance of the ODDOT music label in 2011, showcasing relevent artists such as (((O))), Summer of Haze, Mugl, and Crossparty, is considered to be the beginning of the development of the genre in Russia. Meanwhile the genre started to develop as well in the United States, with the contribution of important forum such as witch-house.com. The forum lately became a music label aiming at releasing music more oriented on the early Witch House artists' sound.
2010 - 2012
BLVCK CELING - TEENWVFF (2012)
SALEM - KING NIGHT (2010)
The first transformation of the genre started around this time. The popularity of Witch House in the United States decreased, and the number of new releases and live shows fell hardly. However, at the same time in Russia Witch House bloomed and started to grow at a rapid pace. The performers who exhibited in that flourishing time later became iconic artists of the genre and determined its further development for the years ahead.
During this period, the Witch House community officially emerged in Russia, but it didn’t intersect with the rest of the international community at all and this greatly influenced its evolution. The first mentions of Witch House on Internet media outlets appeared. Also at this time the first major promoters of Witch House music, Untitled Burial and Nightmares and 808s appeared for the first time and gave great contribution to the formation of the community, the preservation and development of the genre worldwide.
2012 - 2013
2013 - 2016
This time frame is considered to be the golden age of the genre. Witch House artists in Russia, United States, and Europe released a lot of music that would later become the standard style of the Witch House over the next years. Also, a lot of live shows and big Witch House themed parties were held in Russia, such as “VV17CHØU7” and “VEDMIN DOM”. In the United States, Witch House was experiencing major changes in its sound, while in Europe certain metamorphoses led to the active development of a new electronic music genre - Wave (To not be confused it with the genre that appeared in the 80s).
2013 - 2016
At this time, despite Witch House being at the peak of its popularity, major performers of the genre stopped producing the music. This mainly happened on the Russian side, but interest in the genre decreased worldwide. The next turning point in the development of the genre and its popularization was the “NEDOSTUPNOSTЬ” party series in Russia and the “Dissolution” tour in the United States, paired with the emergence of the new music producers and the return of the old ones.
Since Witch House was forged under the influence of many other music genres, its evolution continues, allowing to create of a lot of hybrid styles in the genre, helping Witch House to be often considered as one of the most experimental dark music genre. Now Witch House includes a lot of hybrid influences from other niches and genres - from classic Dark Ambient to EDM, and to even more narrowly focused styles related to the works of Howard Lovecraft and Slavic folklore.
In 2018 the genre began to develop again more actively in Russia than in the United States and in Europe. The party series “NEDOSTUPNOSTЬ” renewed itself into a music label, and its artists became the main leaders and headliners of the Russian Witch House scene. In the United States and in Europe, the development and interest of the genre is growing slowly but steadily and the overall sound appears to be to the developing towards the root sound of earlier Witch House soundscapes.
At the present time, Witch House is usually perceived as a community that unites people with similar views and ideas, but not as a formed music genre with specific sets of rules.
"King Night" track by Salem was used in the soundtrack of the movie “Love” (2015).
Trapdoor by Salem was used in the soundtrack of the movie “The Place Beyond the Pines” (2012).
Tracks by Sidewalks and Skeletons were used in OST of the “RUINER” game.
IN MOVIES AND GAMES
The origin of the genre coincides with the period of popularization of phenomenon such as a the darknet and the emergence of the first cryptocurrencies. Some aspects of the darknet culture have influenced the formation of the visual style of Witch House, which is especially noticeable in the earlier works of the Blvck Ceiling.
The erroneous idea that the topic of suicide is an integral part of Witch House dates back to August 19, 2011, when Greg Sattan, also known as LOVEDIED, committed suicide. After that, his work became a cult for the genre. As a tribute to Greg, witch-house.com released the album “Love Never Dies” featuring multiple Witch House artists.
In September 2014, the music project (((O))) participated to the Vilnius Music Week festival and received positive feedback from Peter Jenner, Pink Floyd’s first manager, and from music critics.