What witchery is this?

Witch house is almost a taboo subject. One of the problems with commenting on this sort of activity is that it is designed to be over at just the point where people start talking about it to this degree. It is designed to self destruct and become unspeakable again. Before, it was unspeakable because it was unknown, soon (now?) it will be unspeakable because you should know it by now. You should know better.
The secretive nature of these music projects is their raison d’etre. Make no mistake; these are occult endeavours.

Witch house is one of those internet genres that has many names. Its practitioners are very concerned with obfuscation and of being hidden. Naming and language play an important part. Individual projects have various or unpronounceable names, track titles are either symbols or scrambled text. Photos of members aren’t common and artwork and lyrical themes portend to hidden meanings. These hidden secrets are a sleight of hand, because there is no solid meaning, only mysticism.

Those who have been grouped under the witch house umbrella tend to be young, so they have already been dismissed as “hipsters”. This tall poppy mentality explains the secretive nature of witchausers. Once one becomes a known entity, one can be reduced to a word. So much of witch house is an attempt to avoid becoming language and to reside in ritual instead. A perfect example of this is the HTML triangle (▲), the use of which has become trendy of late and also very much associated with witch house as it is a favoured symbol of these unconsciously associated acts. The triangle was used because it had no direct meaning, but could symbolise anything and was vaguely occult-looking (it is, after all, a pyramid). Overuse has now inevitably made it a cliché. It now does have a meaning; as a symbol of hipster conformity and emptiness. This is why witch house is occult.

Language is scrambled or concealed in witch house. Vocals are rarely untreated and no sound is “natural”. Images are either brash cut ups or photos where light obscures any subject. An aura of gloom and drugs hangs around, sticky like syrup. The music is somewhere between DJ Screw and black metal [1], the “wrong” type of production dominating human songs, synthesising the human into the machine rather than vice-versa.
These occultist musickers channel anxiety and hedonism into ritual. In the spirit of these rituals of occulting language, let’s call witchausers – and “hipsters” in general – by the symbol that they embraced because it meant nothing; ▲.
The use in ▲ of magickal-style ritual is an attempt to escape chronic self-consciousness. The ideology of magick perfectly suits the “hipster”. It’s not difficult to see the “hipster” as an aristocratic adept, researching and hoarding secret knowledge in his ivory tower – and of course, occult language is very important in both magick and ▲. The word “hipster” itself is a kind of spell with its own, secret logic. To call someone a “hipster” is to curse them with being uncool. “Hipster” is an old fashioned word for someone who is “hip”. Using this ancient honourific is meant to satirically expose a person for trying too hard and being out of touch. The use of the word “hipster” is always sarcastic. The spell works both to curse the receiver and imply that the caster is the true adept. The caster of the “hipster” curse is speaking from a higher position of occult knowledge; she can see that the receiver is not a true adept precisely because she is one. There can be no word for the true adept as the true adept must remain hidden, un-named.
Try to pronounce these names of witch house projects in your mouth: oOoOO, ///▲▲▲\\\, †‡†, Gr†LLGR†LL, ℑ⊇≥◊≤⊆ℜ [2]. Not only do they confound pronunciation, but many of them confound search engines themselves. This is a deliberately occult act. The desire to be invisible to search engines comes from a desire to lengthen the ever more brief life of subcultural capital minutiae. These people are hiding in plain sight.

Paradoxically, these bands become invisible to a new form of mass culture (the search engine) by making use of an old form of mass culture (the logo). If we look at the fate of the HTML triangle symbol, we can see that even something designed to be hidden – the meaning of which is occult and beyond language – can be uncovered, identified and exposed as empty and obvious. As soon as the symbol is no longer occult, it takes on meaning and becomes stupid; it becomes a joke. More than that, it becomes another trap for the non-adept to trip over. It becomes another curse.
But there is more to these rituals than just obfuscation. The spooky synths, spikey high solos and ghost/demon voices are meant to summon up spirits for a séance. As these musical entities operate and form online, the space that they are haunting is the internet. A computer screens artificial glow causes its users to stay up late into the night – and it’s for 3am that this music is made. Like the endless, decontextualised images on a tumblog, witch house moves through the internet unburdened by meaning. Haunting the listener with guesses and (only ever implied) significance, this music glides through the gargantuan network of meaning and language that is the web.

Like a drug, witch house is all effect with no cause. But it has a purpose: to make you think without language. For now.

[1] Especially Les Légions Noires. Note the similarly unpronounceable names, secretiveness and creepy atmospherics.
[2] and there is already a parody entity “called” ▼□■□■□■


I am not a replicant

The book is a medium. It is valid to put anything into a book. You can put anything into a book and call it literature, or poetry, or fiction. Idiomatic speech, email spam, bad grammar, confused tense, jargon, aleatoric writing, nonsense, machine errors – all these have been allowed entry. The old rules have been broken down to one: the only criteria a poem needs to fulfil to be a poem is that it is called a poem, either by a poet or by society.

Now that the barriers have been exposed as holograms, the text world can seem disconcertingly limitless, even pointless. It is not impossible to create a computer programme that can write a poem. No doubt it will reside in the uncanny valley, but it is conceivable that there will be a point where we can’t tell the difference between a certain type of poem or fiction written by a human and one written by a computer. If in the future robots will be writing poetry to each other, what kind of literature will the human race be writing and reading?

Firstly, we must look at the possibility that robotic texts may be created for and read by us. This isn’t very exciting, though. What would be the point in reading a story written by a robot? It would be a mundane trade-off if after the death of the author he was replaced by a robot impostor. This possibility – the robot author – shows up the impossibility of the death of the author. Without the author there is no point in reading a piece of fiction or a poem. Without the author literature is no longer a form of communication, but unnecessary bureaucracy.

So do we close the doors and change the locks on literature? Ban the found text, the aleatory, the flarf, the idioms? Do we make literature a closed community? Rather than attempting the impossible and regressive task of trying to purify literature perhaps we ought to recognise the function of the author and the reader. In doing that I believe we will come to realise that it is the human social relations that are facilitated by activities like poetry and storytelling that make those activities worthwhile and that human social relations are less obscured when not mediated by technology. Of course, the book is a technology and it’s not just the internet or computers that I’m referring to here, but the digitisation of culture means we will inevitably value the non-digital – the post-bit atom – more and more.

Should we leave the production of internet content to bots and small talk? In the past, the internet was a new, exciting world, one that was full of possibilities. That world still exists, but perhaps the new, exciting world is the one away from our screens, the embodied world, the world that robots would only struggle to replicate.

I am not a replicant, but the only way I can prove that to you is if we meet face to face, in a less mediated reality.