Drag, Witch House, Rape Gaze
December 17, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

There was a brouhaha around the name of a particular micro-genre, tossed out amongst other titles for a new genre variant: rape-gaze. The discussion started with a listing of genre names applied to the band Salem, a band whose debut album ranked high in some year-end charts. That specific genre title was coined by the group Creep, who chose the label themselves as some alternative to the more prevalent "witch house" genre title. More music and music pondering inside.

Creep rid themselves of that title when there was increased discussion of the term, and according to their MySpace profile, now classify themselves as "trip-hop." While Trip Hop has it's own noisy history, none that evoke the same gut reaction as "rape gaze". For some, the genre name has stuck, with the genre setting off a list of worst genre names ever (though that list seems to have been compiled by genre title alone, not listening to the actual music):
10. Happy Hardcore (sample track)
9. Zolo (sample track)
8. Paisley Underground (previsouly; sample video)
7. Glitch-Hop (sample video)
6. Furniture Music (sample of a live performance)
5. Chillwave (recently on the Blue)
4. Grebo (sample track)
3. Hi-NRG (sample live video)
2. Hard Bop (sample track)
1. Psybient (sample track)
If you'd like to hear a bit more of the drag / witch house / crunk shoegaze, Pitchfork has a sampler of tracks. If you're trying to follow the bands now, some of their names have changed from awkward series of symbols to names of letters, like the change of /// ▲▲▲ \\ to Horse MacGyver (Vimeo link).

More videos:
Creep's YT collection currently includes 3 videos: Intro, Jessica King, and Hot Shit (which is actually a remix of a Baghdaddy track)
YT user cyclop2121 has a handful of videos made by Cosmotropia de Xam, focusing more on the distortion of noise (and video) than the Salem sound.
For some middle ground, there is oOoOO, who also get into soft pop realms.

If the idea of gothic influences and southern rap blending together sound strange to you, check Salem's remixes of Gucci Mane. But Salem isn't only focused on the durrty south, as seen with their remix of Radiohead and Röyksopp.
posted by filthy light thief (63 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The Furniture Music youtube link seems to be dead.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:25 AM on December 17, 2010

This is a great post, thanks. (Although those aren't really bad genre names at all. Should have at least listed "krautrock" on there; that's worse than anything on the list, I think.)
posted by koeselitz at 11:25 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

(The furniture music youtube link works fine for me, by the way.)
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 AM on December 17, 2010

It's a shame that Donk and Crabcore did not make that list.
posted by txsebastien at 11:27 AM on December 17, 2010

Thanks for this post! I can't wait to get home tonight and devour it.

I fell absolutely in love with Salem earlier this year and have been dying for similar stuff (AskMe.) Also, I want to throw NYC's White Ring (with whom I am completely unaffiliated) into the mix.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The comment I'd make is that to me chillwave and witch house are two sides of the same coin (naming asides).

There was always an element of unease or wooziness in much of chillwave in amongst the chilled upbeat nature of the music. Consider this Memory Tapes video for example...


Witch house merely makes what was implicit explicit - the unease and wooziness is brought to the forth.
posted by treblekicker at 11:34 AM on December 17, 2010

About twice a year, the music press collectively decides to invent a new micro-genre. It’s easy enough. Find at least three bands that sound similar by scouring MySpace pages and blogs.
posted by fuq at 11:37 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

The one clip I saw of Salem was like staring at a brick wall. Not in the sense that there's nothing there...there's something there, but it's just a wall. It contains no information whatsoever. There's no music, and there's not even really a performance. I can't even begin to fathom what the keyboardist think he is bobbing his head to.
posted by anazgnos at 11:38 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing they just remembered how much publicity Steve Albini got for 'Rapeman'.
posted by unSane at 11:38 AM on December 17, 2010

Also: I thought this genre of music was chillwave.
posted by fuq at 11:39 AM on December 17, 2010

No list of worst music genre names is complete without IDM (intelligent dance music): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_dance_music
posted by statolith at 11:40 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Chillwave light. Witch house dark. That's how you tell them apart.

Also, chillwave was the US response to all the Balearic styled stuff coming out of Europe in recent years - Sweden in particular. Naming or not naming the genres, these changes in sound were happening.
posted by treblekicker at 11:41 AM on December 17, 2010

Oh that reminds me, unSane. Thanks!
posted by boo_radley at 11:43 AM on December 17, 2010

Prejudice: Witch House is just down tempo house music (that I enjoy).

I always thought WH was obsessed with form to the point that it altered content. WH does a good job of collapsing the argument that Form and Content are somehow distinct or even understandable when separated.

Rape-Gaze is next on deck, huh? I guess where WH succeeds in being creepy primarily because you know going into it it's creepy, R-G will succeed in being predatory primarily because the label informs you of its predatory nature.

Unfortunately that same impulse is also self destructive, with names like these /// ▲▲▲ \\\ you won't be telling your mates about it, but again that's the point. Imagine a band succeeding with this name before say 1994.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:44 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I get the feeling that the list of "worst genre names ever" was quick post from someone who wanted to jump onto the "OMG Rape Gaze!" bandwagon. Some of those genre names make sense, as far as I know the genres. They even admit they didn't listen to all the genres they present:
"Glitch-hop," then, means people rapping over all that mess. We're sure it's just fantastic, but we'll never know, since we've already vowed to never, ever listen to any.
Part of my reason for including their list was because vowing to never listen to "glitch-hop" means you'll miss some beautiful moments. I think I'll cover the now-closed label Merck, which was home to some of this beauty.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:45 AM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

OK, that's witch house v chillwave sorted. Now where can I get a nice pair of crunk shoes?
posted by Hoopo at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2010

No list of worst music genre names is complete without IDM...

I was taking a college music 101 class last year and (natch) ended up being the know-it-all/trivia expert. At one point, someone gave a presentation on a electronic remix of some Copeland music, and the entire class started ragging on electronic music in general. I mentioned that the remix was firmly in the tradition of two specific styles and really doesn't reflect Electronic Music.

"Which genres is it from?"
"Chiptune and IDM."
"Oh. What's IDM stand for?"

...and I immediately regretted opening my mouth.
posted by griphus at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love that the list writer very quickly went from "Happy Hardcore? What?" to "Okay, this is good." Same thing happened to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:48 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about Reggaeton? Terrible name for terrible music.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:49 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

In an attempt to be "edgy," they ignored history. There's a Canadian Industrial group that changed its name in 1978 to "Canola" after deciding that "rape oil" wasn't palatable to consumers.
posted by explosion at 11:50 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Microgenres make my eyes roll so hard it sounds like a bowling alley in my head.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:50 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Posi-punk is the worst genre name of all time.
posted by unSane at 11:53 AM on December 17, 2010

I think Happy Hardcore and Hi-NRG are descriptive, and they have a huge number of artists in them (although I think they mostly sound the same). Genres like Crabcore and No Wave are only vaguely definable and have only a couple artists that are willing to define themselves as such.
posted by demiurge at 11:54 AM on December 17, 2010

entropicamericana: “Microgenres make my eyes roll so hard it sounds like a bowling alley in my head.”

I guess I get where you're coming from; it's annoying sometimes, the relentless urge to categorize everything. But the thing is, it's not really about the words. And a lot of the music above is really awesome. And frankly the genre-name thing has very little to do with the awesome music, so maybe we should focus on the music instead of the words for it.
posted by koeselitz at 11:54 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

... I'd argue that micro-genres while annoying are a sign of a fertile area of musical exploration.
posted by treblekicker at 12:01 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The one clip I saw of Salem was like staring at a brick wall.

Whoa. That was... I mean, I don't even.
posted by Ratio at 12:11 PM on December 17, 2010

The one clip I saw of Salem was like staring at a brick wall.

I have no horse in this race either way, but in that particular clip it sounds like the mix is all out of whack. Vocals waaaaay too high and all of the electronics buried. I would guess that it does not represent what the band wants to sound like (or does sound like, when they're being engineered properly).
posted by mr_roboto at 12:20 PM on December 17, 2010

That video is hilarious, especially given the "worst band ever" just a couple weeks ago on MeFi.

It's pretty funny the way that there's no sense of continuity or music history anymore — this Witch House shit is pretty much the same as any number of terrible bands that wanted to be Skinny Puppy but didn't feel like tracking down samples. Was the old name, Electric Body Music, so terrible? (Yes, yes it was.)

And how can you have a best worst genre names without romo?
posted by klangklangston at 12:21 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's pretty funny the way that there's no sense of continuity or music history anymore

I have to assume that it's because the writers either don't listen to music, or feel that they must write for an audience who doesn't listen to music, and therefore gravitate towards bands/scenes/made-up-on-the-spot "new genres" that are the easiest to describe, package and sell to people who have no sense of history.
posted by anazgnos at 12:25 PM on December 17, 2010

What's the fun in being "Neo-EBM" when you can be something new? Your music might be a continuation of old styles, but you are making something novel (really!).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:27 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The whole 'lectronic music fandom seem to have evolved into very efficient taxonomic creatures, who spend any number of hours arguing the finer points of splitting vs. clumping. Generally, when your tree starts to have single species per genus or family, it may be time to stop.

If your species consists of a single lectotype, then you know it's time to stop.

All that hyphenation is telling us something, though: a lot of these guys have more in common than they think.

Of more interest (to me, at least) is the actual connections between the artists. I guess when the notion of a "band" is no longer valid it no longer makes sense to have a "rock family tree" any more, but it still is a more compelling story for me.

But, when geeky young things with a head full of localized music genre history try to convince me that "dub" (for example) describes a kind of music that /doesn't/ meander back in some manner to post-rock-steady reggae (true story), I feel compelled to point out that there really are trees in this forest.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:33 PM on December 17, 2010

Wow, I had run across a track from that Salem album and really liked it, but the term rape-gaze may have just ruined it for me.
posted by immlass at 12:33 PM on December 17, 2010

I'd argue that micro-genres while annoying are a sign of a fertile area of musical exploration.

I can buy that. Sort of like the modernists, who were constantly launching new movements, writing manifestos, and expelling one another from their groups.

Vorticism, anyone?
posted by steambadger at 12:34 PM on December 17, 2010

demiurge: "Genres like Crabcore and No Wave are only vaguely definable and have only a couple artists that are willing to define themselves as such."

Crabcore, maybe, but in regards to No Wave you have no idea what the shit you are talking about.

No Wave:
James Chance and the Contortions
Glenn Branca
Lydia Lunch
early Sonic Youth
posted by idiopath at 12:44 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hell, No Wave even had its own cinema movement.
posted by idiopath at 12:45 PM on December 17, 2010

This whole thread makes me feel like my Dad must when he picks up my cell phone.
posted by sanka at 12:55 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

microgenres clouding
like gnats
in the laptop's wan aura
posted by everichon at 12:56 PM on December 17, 2010

"Witch House Dark" wouldn't be a bad name for a craft beer, though.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:10 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's a Canadian Industrial group that changed its name in 1978 to "Canola" after deciding that "rape oil" wasn't palatable to consumers.

Yeah, but they ended up getting sued out of existence after being forced to pay royalties on the Britney Spears tracks Sony snuck onto their album masters without the band's consent.
posted by stet at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

yeah man my tripscotch project is kind of a hybrid of happy outhouse and drip garage
posted by fleetmouse at 1:32 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

How one should dance to IDM

That's actually my alltime favorite Autechre track, now better than ever with those visuals.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:35 PM on December 17, 2010

Between this and the chillwave post I just learned about, I'm finding tons of music I like today. Thanks, MetaFilter. But it's strange to learn that the kind of music I like became hip again while I wasn't looking. A sign of old age for sure.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:11 PM on December 17, 2010

(I should have guessed something was up when I heard "Window Licker" in an ad for the Video Game Awards on Spike.)
posted by Bookhouse at 2:13 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bookhouse, the REAL sign of old age, that this post has confronted me with, is realizing that there are now new entire sub-genres of music I've never heard of that are based entirely on extant sub-genres of music that I've never heard of. It's like doubleplus ignorance. Now I'm off to eat something soft and bland and to blog about the quality of today's bowel movement.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:27 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The inflation in music genre categories has long since reached absurdity levels. Way back when, years ago, there was a website built by one guy where electronic music categories were depicted in graphical terms and a bunch of descriptions. I thought it was pretty useful and pretty accurate, and more importantly, you could wrap your arms around it. You could actually "know them all", like a musical renaissance man. Then the categories kept splintering and splintering and I think the guy eventually gave up. Just a few years later, and you could no longer be the renaissance man - just as happened with real renaissance men. There are not enough hours in the day and hard drive space in the brain, not to mention computers. That's when many people gave up - I certainly did - trying to classify it all. I divide them into a few basic categories and leave it at that. It doesn't mean I listen to less music - on the contrary - but I don't worry about classifying. At this point it seems to me mostly a marketing device, you gotta announce a new genre with your new music, because that's just another way of saying "I'm here!", even if it's not strictly true that what you're peddling is anything actually new, or even a wrinkle on a wrinkle on a wrinkle.

And so, I've vowed not to pay attention to people naming the wrinkles upon the wrinkles, names which go out of circulation almost within weeks of being announced, or even spend their entire fleeting existence on some lonely website with 246 unique visitors. At this point, I'm looking at broad - very broad - new movements. I don't even want to split the broader categories much - so f.ex. it's "house" to me, and I don't worry about the 5000 subdivisions of house. When are we going to have another huge giant movement like hip-hop? Not another split within a split, but a whole new category? Where is another whole new category, like Ambient? Or for that matter... Rock'n'Roll? Wake me up, when that happens, but I just don't see the point of getting excited over the naming of the Swamp variation of Southern Crunk but with a glitch overlay on a down break. I'll listen to any kind of music, but I don't want to hear about categories, unless they're truly new.
posted by VikingSword at 2:38 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think they'll be any new movements because I don't think there ever was. The point is that because most of us weren't that close to the people at the time we never saw how the transitions which we think was big and dramatic was actually a series of micro-changes in local scenes that remained obscured.

To give an example I thought house - acid house in particular was a revolution when I first heard in my teens. But listening later to NY disco in the 80s and also some industrial - for example Chris and Cosey you can hear how those things were part of the general currency of the underground and not such the quantum leap I thought it was at the time.

The difference now is that we now don't have the ignorance any more to be think that there were the quantum leaps we once perceived really existed (and hence there's no real underground) because the web doesn't allow that conceit any more. But what all this doesn't mean is that there isn't a continuum of people experimenting, trying new things and generally making interesting new records.

Personally I'd say, keep listening to new music and don't mistake a lack of a big movement for a lack of creativity in what's being made. There's always good stuff - this has been for me at least a great year for music. Let the historian's categorise later.
posted by treblekicker at 3:01 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bookhouse: I should have guessed something was up when I heard "Window Licker" in an ad for the Video Game Awards on Spike.

WTF, I thought he was strictly against his music being in commercials. Maybe it was someone else, as word is that Aphex Airlines was made for Virgin Airlines (representing how a jet engine feels at take off). Reading that site further, Pirelli tires won an Andy Award for this commercial featuring The Garden Of Linmiri by Aphex Twin's alias, Caustic Window. Clearly, I'm thinking of someone else.

BitterOldPunk, don't feel too bad, there's a world of music we've never heard out there. You only have so many hours in your life to delve for new sounds.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:02 PM on December 17, 2010

there's a world of music media we've never heard out there

Welcome to the future: trying to drink from a fire hydrant, forever.
posted by everichon at 4:28 PM on December 17, 2010

You mean Ishkur's Guide.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:28 PM on December 17, 2010

Yeah, that was it, though I have not looked at it for years and years.
posted by VikingSword at 5:43 PM on December 17, 2010

I love that it was Alia who remembered.
posted by klangklangston at 6:00 PM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

As it is whenever Ishkur's Guide gets mentioned, the accuracy also gets brought up, in that it's not all accurate. I'm surprised it hasn't expanded or involved more people yet, as it's half useful, half a joke to electronic music enthusiasts.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:34 PM on December 17, 2010

Eh, the proliferation of micro-subgenre categories is entirely to do with the fact that it is no longer possible to spend hours arranging your physical vinyl/CD collectiion in the correct order. I mean, seriously, does Country get its own section? Cheesy soundtrack stuff? Baroque? Do you split the hip hop off from the soul, and the disco from the funk? Punk and Indie, that's easy, but where the hell do 23 Skidoo fit into all of this? OK, we're gonna have an oldies section, but do Love really belong there?

Basically, it's the same thing. Boynerds and music, 'twas ever thus.
posted by unSane at 9:48 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Alpha by artist(s), same as it ever was.
posted by everichon at 10:28 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

And compilations?
posted by unSane at 10:34 PM on December 17, 2010

Conversations about genre-naming: the LEAST interesting aspect of music cultural discourse, EVER. Why not talk about the music for a change? Or have music bloggers become so obsessed with buzz generation that thoughtful critiques are out of the question these days? Are we so uncreative now that talking about the music itself has become a chore? I mean really, this whole debate has become a replacement for genuine, thoughtful discussion about the aesthetics and the greater cultural importance of an album or movement—and yes yes I understand that microgenre-labeling in and of itself is part of that discourse, but it can become such a boring, semantic matter and completely obscure the far more fascinating discussions about the band's sound and what it's like and how synths and samples are used and how these are interesting artistic decisions and creative arguments about why some things work and why other things don't. Larry Fitzmaurice (mostly) stays on track in the p4k review of Salem's debut.

And about rape gaze: his review originally mentioned the term quite casually—without any context—but the review has since been edited. "Rape gaze" has been removed from Fitzmaurice's comma list of genre names and the review now ends with an addendum that explains the origins of the term: a silly, embarrassingly ignorant joke by the band Creep, who posted the name 'rape gaze' on their Myspace thinking no one would bat an eye, and they've since disowned it. So can we please just stop talking about offensive micro-genre names for a second and get back to the music, please?

If you want a thoughtful review about Salem's King Night, Fitzmaurice makes a good start, but if you're really looking for creative music critiques these days fuck p4k—cokemachineglow.com is where it's at, and Clayton Purdom's King Night review is no exception.

Disclaimer: my partner writes for CMG, and also wrote a 2010 top-50 blurb about all this (scroll down to #43).
posted by Menomena at 5:20 AM on December 18, 2010

unsane, alphabetical by title, after all single-artist albums.
posted by Dysk at 5:36 AM on December 18, 2010

Nonsense, compilations are alphabetical by title but included as though the artist name was "Various Artists". Also, splits are alphabetised by the first band named on the cover/spine. Thus has it been, thus it is, thus shall it be, ever and ever, lo until the end of days.
posted by Dim Siawns at 8:31 AM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

But what about your classical albums? Composer or performer?
posted by unSane at 8:34 AM on December 18, 2010

Composer, then performer. I always think Grieg or Vivaldi or Prokofiev before I think London Symphony or whatever.

I did go to a record store once where they alphabetized by conductor and it was MADNESS!
posted by klangklangston at 9:42 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Vocal pop, remix services, jazz, soul/R&B, Exotica, classical, various-artist soundtracks, various-artist compilations and Everything Else. Releases by each artist in chronological order.
posted by Lazlo at 11:06 PM on December 18, 2010

Oh witch-house is just trip-hop with a few more pirated VSTs tossed in to the Ableton Live session and the bpm reduced by 30%.

And it has as much garbage in it as Chillwave. And as much garbage as every other genre, too. :)
posted by Theta States at 8:55 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

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