Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Love to Hate: Why Salem is flattered by your antagonism

Chicago Artists, Drag, Hip-Hop 2 Comments »

By David Wicik

About a year ago, Salem—the Michigan-Chicago triad of Jack Donoghue, John Holland and Heather Marlatt—was slated to play a show at The Fader Fort, a temporary venue-slash-cross-promotional-emporium built by The Fader, Levi’s and a handful of other brands for South by Southwest (SXSW) 2010. The group’s presence in Austin was being given a high profile among industry tastemakers. NME, for one, placed them at #2 on their “10 Biggest Buzzes At SXSW” list. This was probably for two reasons: one, in 2008 Salem had been principally responsible for launching a new genre, drag, with the release of their debut EP “Yes, I Smoke Crack”; and two, up to this point Salem had played only a handful of live sets.

There was still an aura of mystery surrounding Salem last spring, despite the hype machine’s preliminary pawings. They released their music online and eschewed interviews in favor of a cryptic MySpace page. They preferred the anonymous dispersion of the internet to participating in the public personas that were already being manufactured for them. And they certainly weren’t interested in, to use Marlatt’s word, “hustling” to get their sound out there; the show in Austin was to be only their fifth live gig. Read the rest of this entry »

Exorcising the Ghost: oOoOO breaks down the buzz about “drag”

Drag, Witch house No Comments »

By David Wicik

You probably have never heard of San Francisco’s Christopher Dexter Greenspan before, and unless you are either a music blogger or a member of the indie-music twitterati, you likely have not heard of his project, oOoOO (pronounced “Oh”). Nevertheless, in the world of emerging music, Greenspan, and the trend that oOoOO stands for, seems to be a fair bit of noise.

Ever since Pitchfork reified the decentralized phenomenon of “drag” or “witch house” it has been virtually an imperative for music writers to have a take on the phenomenon. The predominant narrative seems to be that witch house is a strange and unnecessarily obscure hybrid that invests too much energy in inaccessible, glyphic naming schemes (e.g. †‡†, ///???\\\ or Ritualzzz and Horse MacGyver respectively), is only popular because it is different and that most people who champion it are only hyping a fad.

The music can most adequately be described as a marriage of the gothic coldness of certain new-wave synth tones and the dissociative reprocessing of Houston hip-hop-originated chopped and screwed music, with something of the wonked-fi texture of old Troma soundtracks thrown in for good measure. Greenspan, who was recently named one of the top five new artists for January by Spin magazine, and who is the author of the lengthy quote which leads off the previously alluded to Pitchfork article (“Ghosts in the Machine”), has more or less unwittingly been cast as a figurehead for drag. Read the rest of this entry »