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. Then, write a trends piece that uses their artistry as chum for web hits and temporary influence. Witch House, a bizarre blend of lo-fi shoegaze, chopped and screwed Houston hip-hop, house music and horrifying imagery, is the most recent of these movements. It’s also about to die. In response, I set out to find the two most likely New York-based projects to shatter the bars of its trend jail and move into a career worth following in the long run.
Both Brooklyn projects are making innovative music that touches on the tropes of this hazy scene but also transcend the fashion-over-music smokescreen that plagues many of its smaller acts. Kendra Malia from White Ring understands the comparisons and is ready to move on.
“It makes me want us to evolve more and hopefully move past being pigeonholed as a Witch House band,” she says. “I can see the similarities they’re drawing from, but as a whole I think there are a lot of variations in the bands that are being labeled.”
Lauren Flax, a renowned DJ and half of CREEP, agrees. “People’s perspectives are exactly that: perspectives,” she muses. “We have absolutely no control over that. We don’t advertise ourselves as a ‘Witch House’ band. we just want to make what we feel and if that helps start a movement, we won’t argue that. We’re just going to continue to stay focused and do what we do as long as it’s enjoyable.”
Both acts mix house music, colossal (and often slow) 808-tinged beats and howling female vocals shrouded in reverb with healthy doses of shoegaze textures and industrial clangs. But it’s really those teenage years as Goths that tie everything together.
“It would be a lie if I said Goth culture had nothing to do with our music, but we don’t set out to make dark music and I feel like we make a lot of pretty stuff, too,” explains Bryan Kurkimilis, the other half of White Ring. “Rap is pretty interesting to me. It’s music where most of the mood is coming from the beat and some producers are doing some really new conceptual shit with that right now.”
For CREEP, the nature of its artistry is based more in taking strands of trip hop and death rock to the club. “Everything we listened to in high school still influences us to this day,” Flax says. “We were very into industrial and Goth, as well as shoegaze and alternative. that sort of morphed into our love for bands like Portishead, Tricky, Lamb and Throbbing Gristle. Put all that together with becoming a raver in the ’90s and you get some pretty weird stuff.”
While both bands bring powerful musical elements to the mix, they also offer a distinct strand of fashion, imagery and videos. They show the importance of visuals in order to successfully relate to contemporary music fans.
Flax and co-conspirator Lauren Dillard refer to their work as “rape gaze” and already specialize in immaculate branding. Its videos are perhaps the best way to explore the band’s music thus far. an intro clip features the group’s logo—all upsidedown crosses and backwards lettering to form a cold symbolism rooted in industrial records from the ’80s. Behind the logo, a woman in white grips at the air and sand as soft-focus waves spill onto a beach. Another woman runs in slow motion with a vast smile that’s more Aphex Twin-level creepy than legit happiness.
White Ring takes an even more cryptic approach. Its imagery is all about mountains shrouded in fog, single boulders and discarded female clothing laying in the dirt surrounded by dim candles. Yet perhaps the most distinctive and copied visual that the band incorporates is the triangle. Why oh why is the triangle everywhere these days?
“I started noticing triangles popping up a large amount a few years ago, shortly after New Rave came around. Either it’s being used for its many meanings as a symbol or, like any trend, it’s just snowballing around. we use the Valknut sometimes along with our imagery,” explains Malia.
We didn’t put these bands together for a rip-and-run trends piece, but a future prediction. Both contain enough originality to do interesting things for years and are New York’s best bet to progress from a vague movement into something both eternally cold and interesting. Look for White Ring’s debut EP on Disaro soon and a full-length by year’s end. For CREEP, watch Triangle Records for a first official single, “Days,” which features Romy from The xx on vocals. if all goes well, we predict CREEP will be producing Rihanna singles within a couple years.