State of the Witch House: Predicting the Controversial Genre’s Future

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!

Balam Acab

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.