I observed a phenomenon in music in 2010: a selection of artists who worked under the genre names of ‘witch house’, ‘drag’ or ‘haunted house’, all equally unhelpful in defining what these artists were achieving musically. As the year progressed more and more artists emerged with a similar template of ethereal voices, which were sometimes reminiscent of Cocteau Twins, 808 drums with the clap being particularly prominent and washes of cold synthetic sound. I will cover the main artists of these genres and discuss the idea that they may be unconsciously creating a new form of musical rebellion and exploring emotions and tempos rarely explored by others and their predecessors. In addition, I will reflect on the virtual social context that these artists and their music exist in.

‘Drag’ music first came to my attention via an article written by Joe Colly called ‘Ghosts in the Machine’ on Pitchfork.  Colly highlighted the scene’s leading lights: Balam Acab, OoOOo, White Ring, Creep, Void, xix, Silent Diane and Fostercare, recognising the influence of DJ Screw as the inventor of the chopped and screwed version of hip-hop and the music’s sluggish pace. He observed its juxtaposition between dreamy, beautiful sounds and the upfront violence of gangster rap. This roots ‘drag’ in the rebellion of the violence, crime and drugs associated hip-hop style.

“…from where I’m sitting, the past 10 years have been dominated by that hyper mode, the mindset of stimulants, alertness, and awareness, everything snappy, ambitious, hectic.” – Nitsuh Abebe, Why We Fight #9, Pitchfork, 2010.

This isn’t, however, a detailed explanation of this hard to define music. It is psychedelic and moody; it deals with sickness and death, subjects that are rarely covered in popular music let alone rap or club music. Longing and despair are omnipresent in the vocals. In many ways it’s the subject matter and pace of the music that are the most rebellious aspects. This generation have been born into a world that is ever increasing the speed of life and volume of information available. It is accepted that young people almost exclusively create and listen to the fastest and in turn the most rebellious music, starting with rock ‘n’ roll to punk, rave, drum ‘n’ bass, gabba and more.

There is a pressure and expectation to create this music but the people working in the genres witch house, drag and haunted house etc. have dared to slow down and deliver something more considered and explore complex and deep emotions not typically associated with younger artists. Anxiety, depression, sickness and death: conditions and emotions that few people are ready to express and discuss are bravely communicated by these artists. They are laying themselves bare to potential ridicule but finding themselves embraced by a generation that empathise with their difficulties.

Spotify playlist:

Slow music playlist