It’s pretty much exactly two years since Pictureplane’s Travis Egedy inadvertently created a monster by dubbing the music on his 2009 album Dark Rift “witch house.” It’s a year and a half since Pitchfork, bless them, wrote an article about the nascent “drag” scene, which soon came to be rebadged with Egedy’s throwaway term, and it’s a year since our very own Russ Marshalek posted a fine witch house primer for the uninitiated. People have spent most of the time since arguing about whether a shared love of slowed-down hip-hop beats, artificial reverb, and triangles actually constitutes a genre in the first place. And now, with the release of Balam Acab’s Wander/Wonder last week — an album that a) received unanimously rapturous reviews everywhere and b) didn’t sound witch house-y at all — the question seems to be: if witch house does exist, what sort of future does it have? With all this in mind, it seems like a good time to survey the state of the genre and look at which artists might be around for the long haul. Button down your keyboards – ASCII funtime awaits!
If we had to pick one artist who’s been called “witch house” for genuine mainstream success, it’d definitely be Alec Koone, aka Balam Acab, the hyper-talented kid whose debut album is already one of our favorites of 2011. Admittedly, the fact that everyone else seems to think the same thing doesn’t exactly make this a bold prediction, but hey, we were tipping Koone ages ago. So there. Anyway, although early tracks like the piledriving “Heavy Living Things” (above) had a dark, ominous feel, Koone’s work has evolved away from beats and toward lush, warmer-sounding compositions that sound more at home outdoors than they do in a dingy DIY Bushwick venue, transcending genre conceits and marking him as a genuinely exciting talent.