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We in the Midwest: Juke Vs Witch House: Nothing is Real and Everything is Awesome

Posted on September 1st, 2010 by eric

In one of the first comments under XLR8R’s newest podcast, a collaborative mix by DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn, user Jukin’ Off claims that juke is the new “experimental IDM” (a redundancy if I’ve ever heard one), and that the term refers to pretty much whatever a juke DJ says is juke. The commenter gets a lot of flak, partly for going on to say that “any half ass Detroit or Bmore dj can throw down way better than this shit,” and while I wholeheartedly feel that that last sentiment is some bullshit, they might not be too off-base with their first point.

When I was in high school, a million years ago when dinosaurs and Boy Bands roamed the Earth, juke wasn’t a type of music. Juking was synonymous with grinding, down and dirty simulated sex on the dance floor that could have happened during to a house track, to gangsta rap songs that got snuck into the setlist at the prom, or to polka if it got played fast enough and Mishka and Natalija got into enough Żywiec before the show. A producer friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) was complaining on twitter a few months back that there’s no such thing as juke, that juke was a type of song that worked well for footworking that spanned across genre lines.

I think his definition is a little too closed-minded. While that might have been the case ten years ago, it isn’t the case now. Just like IDM, there were no rules to “juke” when people first started using the term, but practitioners and fans alike cherrypicked the type of songs they liked to form a concrete structure out of Chicago house, hip hop, and Miami Bass. The distinctions are pretty simple: 160-ish BPM, four-on-the-floor kicks, minimal synths, and lyrics about sex, dancing, and getting fucked up.

The XLR8R mix shows off a lot of original production from Spinn and Rashad, along with tracks from DJ Manny, King AG, and DJ Earl. Right from the start you can see how their take on juke, full of layered, repetetive rhythms, differs from DJ Gant-Man and DJ Funk’s more vocal-oriented take on the music.

You can download the mix from XLR8R mag here

It’s been a few months since Pitchfork wrote an article on witch house, and the term is already disappearing. It might’ve been a bullshit term to begin with, putting a bunch of artists together due to similarities in visual aesthetics more than musical ones (see also: chillwave, kinda) but it was a good one. It was kind of like a less glossy version of what 2006 used to call darkwave, and it could have just as well been called tumblr haus. Acts like Zola Jesus and oOoOO both got swept up into the description, even though Zola Jesus seems more like an exaggerated form of lo fi rock-and-roll, by way of noise, and oOoOO is more like an exaggerated form of dance music, by way of ambient or industrial, and neither one resemble house in any way I can recognize.

Despite the incongruence, I love the term. It fits more of a scene than a genre: ex-goths and secret goths who go to raves and dance parties, as represented locally by parties like XOTH, collectives like Front 312, and blogs like Ratcatchers. There are visual themes that echo: sullen poses, obscured identities, letters and faces replaced by ASCII art, shapes and symbols like crosses and triangles (that may or may not die with the release of MIA’s not entirely well-loved /\/\/\Y/\ ), and there’s an element of gay-ness and gender bending, of dirty divas and extravagant scumbags, of the clinical, unromantic aspects of sex, of the way high fashion mines the look of the ugly and downtrodden.

Although their recorded output fits more in line with electropop, no one fits those aesthetic paramaters better than Kansas City’s SSION, a collective of visual artists and musicians led by Cody Critchelo, whose stage sets look like something Gary Panter would have put together for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and who, in addition to their own albums, videos, and feature-length film, have worked with artists like Peaches, The Gossip, and Tilly and the Wall.

A month or two back dis magazine featured a mixtape from Ssion called Crack My Witch Up. The mix didn’t come with any explanation or preface so I can only extrapolate that it is related to Witch House in that it fits SO perfectly with the genre and that it has the word witch in it (oh yeah, I go deep). It acts as a kind of primer for the roots of this new/fake genre that’s uniting so many people who share an equal, unironic love for Lady Gaga and Can. The tracks seamlessly blend a number of disparate-but-related genres, including pop, new wave, industrial, punk, post-punk, riotgrrl (itself easily more of a media creation ghetto-izing the music of women in punk rock into their own separate but unequal genre). Lower-key, decidedly-less upbeat tracks from pop icons like Janet Jackson and Prince rub shoulders with PJ Harvey’s intensely catchy/creepy “Down By the Water”, plus entries from Hole, Ministry, Bikini Kill, Peechees, Elastica, Mindr, Vitalic, Soft Cell, and Les Georges Leningrad. Even noise/filth goddess-turned-respectable-Mom/sex columnist Lisa Crystal Carver (aka Lisa Suckdog) makes an appearance, by way of “Quest for the Cup”, a song she did with Sonic Youth for their 1994 album Experimental Jetset, Trash and No Star.

It’s a wonderfully curated mixtape, and one of the only ones I can recommend for all my grown-up secret goth friends to rock on the treadmill.Download Crack My Witch up from DisMagazine here

Other Notable Recent-ish Releases

Juiceboxxx – Thunderzone Volume One

I thought I would have more to say about Juiceboxxx’s debut mixtape when it came out a few months ago, considering he’s one of my favorite live performers ever, but I really don’t. He knows his house and he knows his hip hop, and every new track sounds better than the last, but I haven’t been able to find a personal/pop-culture angle to couch a me-style review in, so I can just say that it’s a straightforward mixtape of the type of solid classic 90s party rap we’ve come to expect from the Juiceboy. Sometimes he sounds like MC Chris and sometimes he sounds like Busdriver, but on most of the tracks it’s just unmistakably Juiceboxxx. Possible Feathers, Spank Rock and Ninjasonik show up for collabos and everyone who you’ve ever read about on Mad Decent, Iheartcomix, Palms Out Sounds, and Missingtoof pops up to show love on intros and vocal drops.

Download Thunderzone Volume One here

Hollywood Holt – These Are The Songs That Didn’t Make The Album But Are Still Cold As Hell So Shut The Fuck Up

Hollywood Holt is still the funnest guy in the room, a connoisseur of fun shit like clothes, mopeds, dancing, fighting, and fucking. Oh, and hip hop. Most of the tracks have the same kind of laid back throwback flow championed by acts like the Cool Kids, even if the lyrical content is a bit more aggressive. It sounds like Hollywood had a lot of fun making the album, from reworking Snoop and Dre’s breakout hit “Deep Cover” to using the age-old axiom “hip hop is dead” to make a song about zombies. Million $ Mano shows up on a number of tracks (along with his He Say, She Say cohort Drea), plus Klever, Rockie Fresh, and Mikkey Halsted. This’ll keep me sated for a bit, but I’m looking forward to the album these songs weren’t good enough for, and hoping for some more songs that showcase dude’s crazy, boundless energy.

Download the mixtape at

The Dirty Diamonds – The Singularity Pts. 1 & 2

The Dirty Diamonds have released two singles over the last couple months, and I’m totally ready to drink the electric kool aid at their next show. Three of the four new songs sound like 808-tinged powerpop, and the fourth, “Thug Maniac” off of Pt. 2 of The Singularity is but isn’t R&B, is-but-isn’t new wave, and might be (but ain’t) kraut rock.

Download both EPs from the Dirty Diamonds’ bandcamp page

Starfoxxx – general awesomeness

Speaking of juke (see: above), Starfoxxx does it really well. If you aren’t on Soundcloud yet, get on Soundcloud. If you are on Soundcloud, subscribe to Starfoxxx’s page. Their shit is getting weirder and better. New updates include remixes of Metallica, Sam Cooke, KRS-One, and Yes, and their new mixtape shows off a lot more of their love of South American and African music than they really get to show off at club parties.

All those words I just said are here