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Friday, August 09, 2013

Show Review: Ritualz, Micro Genre, Dark Techno, Witch House & Sea Punk

Ritualz- Ghetto Ass Witch album art

Show Review:
@ The Void

   Any attempt to classify or distinguish different types of popular music is a discussion of genre.  Errors are often made by critics who use genre distinctions/classifications as a judgment on the value of entire categories of music.  Of course, genre simply distinguishes between different kinds of music by noting similar and disparate characteristics of the music, genre distinctions shouldn't have anything to say about whether one genre is better or more valid then another.  Quality distinctions either come within genres or across over lapping genres, or by transcending genres.

  Within this area of aesthetics, the most important development in the last decade has been the emergence of the term "micro genre."   Micro Genre refers to a category of music which traditionally would NOT be considered a "genre" because it lacks certain features that ALWAYS characterize genres in popular music.  Things like:  Artists, Fans and Records.  Instead, Micro Genres possess advocates and collectors- people who are interested in the creation of genres and typically interested in the idea of genre in a way that isn't linked to any particular kind of music.

  Two "micro genres" have enjoyed particular attention in the last two years.  First, there was Witch House.  Wikipedia defines Witch House:

Witch house applies techniques rooted in chopped and screwed hip-hop – drastically slowed tempos with skipping, stop-timed beats– coupled with elements from genres such as noise, drone, and shoegaze. (1)

   Witch House reached a "peak" as a Micro Genre in October 2010, when Salem released King Night. (2)  Witch House was first transcended/assimilated in February of 2012, when Grimes released Visions. (3) Although it would be inappropriate to call Grimes a "Witch House" Artist, she certainly incorporates many of the stylistic markers that let people to coin the term in the first place.

   The second notable micro genre is "Sea Punk."  Where Witch House was firmly rooted in music, Sea Punk had a broader Artistic heritage that incorporated a strong fashion/design/visual aesthetic alongside the musically dubious component.  To this date, there have been no major musical break through's in this micro genre, but the visual component has linked up with the larger Internet Art aesthetic.

 I would argue that a current micro genre with the potential for generating a genre transcending Artist is Dark Techno- a kind of electronic/industrial "dance" music which is characterized by the use of lo fi recording techniques and static/noise elements, paired with an aesthetic that draws from 80s/90s underground industrial music.  Prominent examples include Vatican Shadow and Cut Hands.  It is easy to see the potential for this area to produce a genre transcending Artist- just look at the example of Nine Inch Nails, who incorporate many of the same influences to great popular effect.

 One of the difficulties for a dark techno Artist trying to transcend genre (or micro genre) is the visual asethetic of dark techno with it's black and white/lo fi emphasis.  This is not what people looking for the next thing want to see.  From a visual perspective, embracing the internet art aesthetic makes more sense then trying to revive the 80s/90s industrial dance vibe.

 Enter Ritualz.   His new Album Cover for the Ghetto Ass Witch EP is the image at the top of the article.  Even though the music I heard last night fit firmly within the dark techno micro genre, the visual imagery is drawn from something outside that world- closer to the stylistic characteristics of Sea Punk and Witch House- both of which have been deeply and profoundly influence by the asesthetic world of Internet Art.

 In fact I would say that the very existence of the term "micro genre" as well as the micro genres themselves were essentially derived from concepts and ideas that were created by the Internet Art community, and I would strongly argue that Micro Genre- as a concept- is properly seen as an extension of Internet Art, in the exact same manner that "post-modernism" was a concept developed in architecture, which was later extended to other arts.  Exact same analysis for the term "gothic" by the way, just two centuries earlier.

  This connection between micro genre and internet art is not one that I think has been deeply explored by the music critical community simply because large segments of that community are ignorant of internet art.


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