Witch house (genre)

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Witch house is subgenre of electronic music characterized by dark, occult themes and visual aesthetics, that emerged in the late 2000s and early 2010s.[1][2] The music is heavily influenced by the 'chopped and screwed' style of hip-hop, as well as industrial and noise, and dream pop. Witch house makes use of synthesizers, drum machines, obscure samples, droning repetition and vocals that are heavily altered, ethereal, and/or indiscernible.

The witch house visual aesthetic includes occult, witchcraft, shamanism, terror and horror-inspired artworks, collages and photographs as well as significant use of hidden messages and typographic elements such as Unicode symbols.[3][4] Many works by witch house visual artists incorporate themes from horror films such as The Blair Witch Project,[5] the television series Twin Peaks,[6] horror-inspired dark web videos and mainstream pop culture celebrities. Common typographic elements in artist and track names include triangles, crosses and Unicode symbols, which are seen by some as a method of keeping the scene underground and harder to search for on the Internet as well as references to the television series Twin Peaks and Charmed.[7][8]

Influences and style[edit]

Despite the name of the genre, witch house does not bear many similarities to the dance music genre known as house music, which features a strong up-tempo beat. Instead, witch house adapted techniques rooted in chopped and screwed hip-hop, specifically drastically slowed tempos with skipping, stop-timed beats[9]—from artists such as DJ Screw,[10] coupled with elements from other genres such as ethereal wave, noise, drone, cloud rap and shoegaze.[11][12] Witch house is also influenced by 1980s ethereal wave bands such as Cocteau Twins,[13] as well as being heavily influenced by certain industrial and experimental bands, such as Psychic TV and Coil.[14][15] The use of hip-hop drum machines, noise atmospherics, creepy samples,[16] dark synthpop-influenced lead melodies, dense reverb, and heavily altered, distorted, and pitched down vocals are the primary attributes that characterize the genre's sound. The genre rose to prominence in the early 2010s with renewed interest in individually produced electronic music and Internet subcultures, rising with the increasing tide of genres such as seapunk and vaporwave.


Witch house has been quoted as being provocative and transgressive in nature. The genre is characterized as dark, transgressive, and that which blends the line between abrasive and harmonic. Many artists in the genre have released slowed-down and backmasked remixes of pop and hip-hop songs,[10] or long mixes of different songs that have been slowed down significantly.

Origins and etymology[edit]

The term witch house was coined in 2009 by Travis Egedy, who performs under the name Pictureplane.[17][18] The name was originally conceived as a joke,[19][20][21] as Egedy explains: "Myself and my friend Shams... were joking about the sort of house music we make, [calling it] witch house because it’s, like, occult-based house music. ...I did this best-of-the-year thing with Pitchfork about witch house.... I was saying that we were witch house bands, and 2010 was going to be the year of witch house.... It took off from there. ...But, at the time, when I said witch house, it didn’t even really exist..."[19] Shortly after being mentioned to Pitchfork, blogs and other mainstream music press began to use the term. Flavorwire said that despite Egedy's insistence, "the genre does exist now, for better or worse".[22]

Some music journalists, along with some members of musical acts identified as being in the genre's current movement, consider witch house to be a false label for a micro-genre, constructed by certain publications in the music press (including The Guardian, Pitchfork and various music blogs).[23][24] The genre was also briefly connected to the term rape gaze, the serious use of which was publicly denounced by its coiners, who never expected it to be used as an actual genre,[25][26] but viewed it as simply a joke intended to mock the music press' propensity towards the creation of micro-genres.[24]


  1. ^ Wright, William (July 2010). "The Rise of Generation Cult". SuperSuper!. Vol. 21. SuperSuper Ltd. pp. 8–18.
  2. ^ Hockley-Smith, Sam (27 October 2017). "Why It's Time to Reconsider Witch House". Vulture. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  3. ^ Necci, Marilyn Drew (9 August 2010). "Witch House: Listen with the Lights On". RVA Magazine. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  4. ^ Davis, Ben (21 December 2010). "WITCH HOUSE ▲ESTHETICS". Synconation. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Murder Dog Magazine - Volume 17 #3 - Special Feature:Witch House (Page 87)". Murder Dog Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  6. ^ Dom, Pieter (14 April 2011). "Witch House And Okkvlt Guide To Twin Peaks". Welcome to Twin Peaks. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  7. ^ Baxter, Jason (20 October 2010). "What is the "Witch House Font?" | Line Out". Lineout.thestranger.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  8. ^ Jovanovic, Rozalia (19 January 2011). "How To Be a Witch House Poser". Flavorwire. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  9. ^ Lindsay, Cam (31 January 2011). "The Translator - Witch House". Exclaim.ca. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  10. ^ a b Caramanica, Jon (4 November 2010). "DJ Screw's Legacy: Seeping Out of Houston, Slowly". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  11. ^ Watson, William Cody (12 September 2010). "Slow Motion Music". Impose Magazine.
  12. ^ Rees, Thomas (18 November 2010). "oOoOO: Christopher Greenspan Joins the New Wave of Ethereal Electro-Pop Makers While Sidestepping the Name Game". XLR8R. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  13. ^ Wright, Scott (9 March 2010). "Scene and heard: Drag". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  14. ^ Marshalek, Russ (22 September 2010). "Haunted: A Witch House Primer". Flavorwire. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  15. ^ Maness, Carter (25 August 2010). "Brooklyn's Vanishing Witch House: White Ring and CREEP burn your trends and have real music to show for it". Nypress.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  16. ^ Sokol, Zach (1 February 2011). "The Witch House Debate: Is †he Music Genre Wor†h ∆ Lis†en? · NYU Local". Nyulocal.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  17. ^ Lhooq, Michelle (18 June 2015). "Teens, Drugs, and HIV Jokes: Welcome to Witch House in Russia". Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  18. ^ Todd Pendu (8 November 2010). "The Genesis of Naming a Genre: Witch House". Pendu Sound. Archived from the original on 4 February 2019.
  19. ^ a b Nguyen, Tuyet (30 December 2010). "This is witch house | Music | The A.V. Club Denver/Boulder". Avclub.com. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  20. ^ Huston, Johnny Ray (1 June 2011). "Weird emergence". Sfbg.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  21. ^ P.J. Nutting (30 December 2010). "Which house for witch house?". Boulderweekly.com. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  22. ^ Hawking, Tom (7 September 2011). "State of the Witch House: Predicting the Controversial Genre's Future". FlavorWire. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  23. ^ "Brooklyn's Vanishing Witchhouse". New York Press. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  24. ^ a b "The Horrifyingly Named Micro-Genre "Rape Gaze" Explained". Village Voice. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  25. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry (8 October 2010). "Salem - King Night". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  26. ^ "Pitchfork Backtracks on 'Rape Gaze' Because Creep Said So". The Daily Swarm. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2011.