Witch house (sometimes referred to as drag)[1] is a microgenre of electronic music that is musically characterized by high-pitched keyboard effects, heavily layered basslines and trap-style drum loops, while it aesthetically employs occult and gothic-inspired themes.[2][3]

The witch house visual aesthetic includes occultism, 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.[4][5] Artworks by witch house visual artists have incorporated imagery from horror films such as The Blair Witch Project,[6] the television series Twin Peaks,[7] and the fantasy show Charmed,[8] as well as mainstream pop culture celebrities of the 2000s. Common typographic elements in titles, such as by Salem and White Ring, include triangles, crosses and Unicode symbols, which are seen by some as a method of gatekeeping (in an effort to keep the scene underground and more difficult to search for on the Internet).[9]

Influences and style

Despite the name of the genre, witch house has little in common with house music, which generally features a strong up-tempo beat. Instead, witch house adapts techniques rooted in chopped and screwed hip-hop, specifically drastically slowed tempos with skipping, stop-timed beats[10]—from artists such as DJ Screw,[11] coupled with elements from other genres such as ethereal wave, noise, drone, and shoegaze.[12][13] Many artists in the genre have released slowed down and backmasked remixes of pop and hip hop songs,[11] or long mixes of different songs that have been slowed down significantly. Witch house is also influenced by 1980s ethereal wave bands such as Cocteau Twins,[1] and 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 sometimes pitched down vocals are the primary attributes that characterize the genre's sound. Vocals can either be rapped, sung by either a female or male or a song can be entirely instrumental. The genre rose to prominence in the early 2010s with renewed interest in individually produced electronic music and Internet subcultures that spawned on sites like Tumblr. Witch house is often equated with other visually-dependent genres such as seapunk and vaporwave, which also achieved popularity over Tumblr.

Origins and etymology

The term witch house was coined in 2009 by Travis Egedy, professionally known as Pictureplane.[17][18] The term was originally conceived as a joke,[19][20][21] as Egedy explained: "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 its mention in 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 microgenre, constructed by certain publications in the music press, including The Guardian, Pitchfork, and various music blogs.[15][23] The genre was also briefly connected to the term rape gaze, the serious use of which was publicly denounced by those who coined it, who never expected it to be used as an actual genre term,[24][25] but viewed it as simply a joke intended to mock the music press' propensity towards the creation of microgenres.[23]


  1. ^ a b Wright, Scott (9 March 2010). "Scene and heard: Drag". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
  2. ^ Wright, William (July 2010). "The Rise of Generation Cult". SuperSuper!. Vol. 21. SuperSuper Ltd. pp. 8–18.
  3. ^ Hockley-Smith, Sam (27 October 2017). "Why It's Time to Reconsider Witch House". Vulture. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  4. ^ Necci, Marilyn Drew (9 August 2010). "Witch House: Listen with the Lights On". RVA Magazine. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  5. ^ Davis, Ben (21 December 2010). "Witch House ▲esthetics". Synconation. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  6. ^ "SALEM - purple MAGAZINE".
  7. ^ Dom, Pieter (14 April 2011). "Witch House And Okkvlt Guide To Twin Peaks". Welcome to Twin Peaks. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  8. ^ Baxter, Jason (20 October 2010). "What is the "Witch House Font?" | Line Out". Lineout.thestranger.com. Archived from the original on 9 November 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  9. ^ Jovanovic, Rozalia (19 January 2011). "How To Be a Witch House Poser". Flavorwire. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  10. ^ Lindsay, Cam (31 January 2011). "The Translator - Witch House". Exclaim.ca. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  11. ^ a b Caramanica, Jon (4 November 2010). "DJ Screw's Legacy: Seeping Out of Houston, Slowly". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  12. ^ Watson, William Cody (12 September 2010). "Slow Motion Music". Impose Magazine.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Marshalek, Russ (22 September 2010). "Haunted: A Witch House Primer". Flavorwire. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  15. ^ a b 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 5 October 2022.
  17. ^ Lhooq, Michelle (18 June 2015). "Teens, Drugs, and HIV Jokes: Welcome to Witch House in Russia". vice.com. 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 5 October 2022.
  23. ^ a b Baron, Zach (8 October 2010). "The Horrifyingly Named Micro-Genre "Rape Gaze" Explained". Village Voice.
  24. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry (8 October 2010). "Salem - King Night". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  25. ^ "Pitchfork Backtracks on 'Rape Gaze' Because Creep Said So". The Daily Swarm. 12 October 2010. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.