One of the major news stories this summer was Lindsay Lohan’s unfortunate (and brief) incarceration. LiLo’s plight struck a chord within the internet community inspiring blog posts, YouTube dedications and online mixtapes: ‘Let Me Shine For You’, a collection of Lohan covers released by the Tri Angle label, was my first encounter with ‘Witch House’ (or ‘Drag’).
Based loosely around the output of labels Disaro and Tri Angle, this fast-growing genre has started receiving media attention with the recent releases of Salem’s album King Night, oOoOO’s first EP and Balam Acab’s debut See Birds.
As a genre in its teething stage, much is under debate including the name, what exactly it involves and whether it even exists. The latter question is redundant as Drag already has a devoted Wikipedia page.
How appropriate that the build-up of interest in Drag has occurred over the end of the summer and towards the coming of Halloween. One aspect is the unsettling feel and sickly lethargy: haunting, slightly mystical themes are inflected into weirdly wonderful band and track names like “†‡†” and the slightly ridiculous “GuMMy†Be▲R!”, accompanied by album artwork that is often chilling.
While the slightly gothic aesthetic is there – in the monikers, the artwork, the feel of the tracks – these slowed, bass-heavy sounds borrow more from Burial than Bauhaus. The focus seems to be more on messing with samples and vocal tracks rather than creating some ‘dark’ subculture.
The artists that comprise the Drag movement all make use of varying and disparate sources. Rap and hip-hop influences can be heard from the likes of Salem, oOoOO and Stalker, with definite interests in pop as well (made evident by the fact there was even a LiLo mixture).
There are also groups like Modern Witch; reminiscent of cold electronics from the 80s, they sound like the kind of tracks Angular records released earlier this summer on Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics. Echoes of grunge can also be heard on their track “Can’t Live in a Living Room”, sounding like it crawled up from the roots of Nirvana’s “Breed” – which, depending on how you look at it, is a botched or successful recreation.
This is the other main feature of Drag: the remixing and the sampling. These groups go beyond the production of simple covers and remixes, constantly editing each other’s work. Soundcloud is bursting with tracks uploaded by Disaro, Tri Angle and a plethora of others.
It has now reached a point where a track can exist in numerous reincarnations before being released (if it ever does), sometimes living out its short yet productive life on the internet. I say productive because each reinvention brings the whole collective of contributors together into a more cohesive ‘genre’. Is this merely an indication of the real-time accumulation of data that shapes the way music is experienced in the internet age? Perhaps it is all part of a calculated creation – a ‘genre’, constructed.
That has been the accusation: some critics fancy themselves as the child who sees the emperor is naked. At one fell swoop, these critics condemn an entire global community as both conniving and stupid; one half mischievously spinning invisible thread for the other half to later proclaim with vacuous glee that, yes, those clothes are indeed magnificent.
These types of genres are often hyped up by blogosphere excitement, progressing at such speeds that one wonders whether the interest is genuine or the genre even real.
This is highlighted by the current success of Die Antwoord. Intended as a joke to highlight this blog-excitement culture (“taking over the interweb”), they’ve become so successful the music press praises them even after being clued-in on the joke.
Pop culture has reached such a heightened level of irony that no one is sure what is and isn’t serious anymore. The question is whether it ever really mattered.
In a recent interview in Dazed and Confused, Heather Marlatt (from US witch-trio Salem) said she “would much rather someone be like ‘What the fuck?’ than like us because it’s ‘cool’”.
Putting aside the irony that the comment was made in Dazed and Confused, Marlatt has a point. As far as I’m aware, none of the surrounding internet buzz alters the sounds coming out of your speakers and yet it seems to entirely alter how they are heard.
The problem with the whole ‘blog-citement makes bad bands good’ theory is that there is an equal danger of bands being written off too quickly for the exact same reason they are lauded, or perhaps because they are lauded in the first place.
In an attempt to take ‘Drag’ as it is based on the tracks themselves, I personally enjoy a substantial amount of the sounds being created. It’s worth a listen if anything.