oOoOO: "Music Is About Breaking Limits; Genre Imposes Them"
How the hell do you pronounce oOoOO? Well, we here at Crossfade can't advise you there, because we totally forgot to ask Chris Dexter, the man behind the moniker, when we spoke to him this week.
What we can tell you is that he's not exactly thrilled about you calling his sound witch house.
"It feels really cynical and pointless, all of the subgenre generation that goes on in music writing," Dexter laments.
"Classification is often used as a cheap substitute for having anything insightful to say about the music being discussed. It's rare when I hear a discussion of music that leans heavily on genre that has anything interesting to add to the music itself. And worse, it seems like a branding exercise imposed on artists from the outside.
"If some kids relate to it, though, that is fine with me," he concedes. "I mean, if kids genuinely get something out of that term or identity, that is cool for them. It just seems mostly to be empty and pointless when I read about it on the Internet. Music for me is about breaking limits. Genre defines and imposes them. So it's not my thing."
You can't really blame the San Francisco producer for resenting being pigeonholed in a genre dubious enough as it is. After all, witch house isn't even a specific style of music with distinct characteristics. The name itself is often interchangeable with other gimmicky music blogger terms like drag, screwgaze, crunk shoegaze, or chillwave, as we mentioned back in 2010, when witch house made our list of the Wackiest Electronic Music Genres You've Never Heard Of.
Of course, the witch part refers to the sound's typical eerie melodies, and dark, spooky atmospherics, harking back to the goth synth-pop of the '80s. But its slo-mo grooves are actually attributed to the chopped and screwed hip-hop style of Houston's DJ Screw. And that's the reference which Dexter prefers.
"I've never really listened to any gothic music, unless you consider The Cure to be gothic," he explains. "And I haven't even listened to them since high school, and wasn't a huge fan, anyway. Closest thing to goth I've ever been into is Memphis rap music. Three Six Mafia and all that. And DJ Screw. That's as close as I've ever gotten."
With its pairing of dark, bass-heavy dubtronica and a haunting R&B soulfulness, oOoOO's 2013 debut long player, Without Your Love, could just as easily be labeled trip-hop as witch house. And predictably, Dexter's own description of his creative intentions and sonic evolution on the album is as ambiguous as the critics' categorization of his sound.
"I made [the album] in a few months, here at home in San Francisco mostly," he says. "The album has some very specific meanings to me -- I think they are pretty obvious. But I hope maybe people interpret it differently than I intended. I hope there is enough ambiguity on display for that."
Maybe it's best if we just stop trying to categorize oOoOO's sound altogether, and let the music speak for itself when he performs at Wynwood's Gramps tonight. You can certainly expect a different listening experience than what's offered in the studio recordings that all the music journalists are scrambling to define.
"For the live shows, I rework the tracks a bit," says Dexter. "It's loud. The visuals are important to the performance as well."
oOoOO. With Strangeways, Benton G, and Mikey R. Friday, July 5. Gramps, 176 NW 24th St. Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. Call 786-752-6693 or visit grampsbar.com.