Various - ISVOLT - Disaro Compilation

I have a problem with a lot of this genre business. It's my problem, that I'll admit, and no doubt comes down to ignorance on my part. Besides, these micro-genres are gone in an East London rain shower. Who needs 'em, last one worth talking about was punk in '77, blah, blah. So what is it with Witch House then? Why has 'Drag' or whatever you call it got me and half the world somehow suddenly fascinated? Even to describe what exactly constitutes this sound is difficult - "screwed", "chopped" - there are whole PHDs to be written, whether it's a technical description or a feeling, a zeitgeist? I was thus intrigued and blessed to give some extended listening time to this, making doubly sure it wasn't just a moment of South Sea Bubble.

The album is a joint production between new London label Robot Elephant and Houston based Disaro. Compilation albums can all too often make your heart sink - like the old lady in the waiting room - so I am therefore heartened to report that whoever has put this together has done an excellent job of producing an nicely cohesive work from what could have been graveyard left-overs. The commonality is dark electronica, what someone else described to me as "purity of feeling ... and wailing and smoke".

The opening track, 'Misery Walk', sets the scene nicely, not least when it begins to reveal half-deciphered spoken word as though through a dirty warehouse window. This sort of disembodied chanting, if not a constant of Witch House, recurs enough to be rightly regarded as a trade mark of the sound. 'Cold Light' is less successful and had me reaching for skip, as did Party Trash's 'Skyclad' later in the record. 'Nod' by ///HORSE MACGYVER\ (///▲▲▲\) actually beguiles with its hazing in and out over buzzy hints of industrial. White Ring's offering is the most accomplished, doing a proper job of the chanting business, and it being a sampler, that's the one that's whetted my appetite to pursue next, while Mater Suspiria Vision nearly succeeds, but is slightly too wilful for it's own good with all that chopping and dragging. Nectarine by Raw Moans is very conventional by comparison and only just deserves its place here as a counterpoint.

I could even see this collection ending up as latter day dinner party ambience once some get hold of it. Listen to it if you're curious. That's how I started and it has ended up as my current weapon of choice when in need some of loud and moody comfort. As for the band names, I don't even know how you would ask for some of them in a record shop, but let's indulgently regard that as part of the foible and charm.

Overall

7

out of 10

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