Release Date: Jun 25, 2013
Record label: Nihjgt Feelings
Genre(s): Electronic, Electronica, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
Chris Dexter, the San Francisco soundscaper behind the mind-bogglingly titled moniker oOoOO, trades in the same mood-altering atmosphere as fellow electronic escapists Clams Casino and Forest Swords—that is to say, lushly cinematic, pure visionary ecstasy. After two impressive EPs for Tri Angle, his debut Without Your Love continues to thrive on subterranean nighttime pleasures, echoing infinitely down through the dark unknown. Dive deep and don't bother coming up for air.
By the time Christopher Dexter Greenspan released Without Your Love, his first full-length album as oOoOO, most of the other acts affiliated with the late-2000s movement known as witch house had either evolved past it or been forgotten. Like Balam Acab, oOoOO moved on from the style's contrived beginnings, refining his sound over the course of several EPs until his music was less like witch house and more like ghostly R&B (or a sleek update of trip-hop). Either way, Greenspan mixes dark electronic sounds and R&B influences compellingly on Without Your Love, whether he pairs samples of a soulful melody with rumbling textures on "Misunderstood" or a precise bassline and beats with eerie chittering and distortion on "The South.
In the late 2000s, something that called itself witch house started to appear amongst the electronic music that so rapidly accumulated online. Despite the name, it didn’t sound like house, though it did have gothic undertones that meant the ‘witch’ part of the tag made sense. Other names were applied to this slow, skewed and sometimes spooky music: drag, screwgaze, and for a brief and unfortunate time rape gaze.
On his long-awaited debut full-length as oOoOO, Christopher Dexter Greenspan manages to curtail witch house’s inherent gimmickry and cartoonish parodies. Instead, Without Your Love finds the San Francisco-based producer successfully forging a refined suite that, while certainly unsettling at times, never loses its focused application of melody or fastidious approach to texture in the pursuit of cheap thrills. When witch house first came to widespread attention at the tail-end of the noughties via a wave of acts (Salem, White Ring, Ritualz) peddling woozy atmospherics, after-hours malice and an overzealous use of religious iconography, it often felt a tad too concerned with pastiche and melodrama to be taken seriously.
Opening Without Your Love with a cameo from Butterclock, a Berlin-based collaborator who whips cotton-candy love-trips out of sleepy melancholy, was a smart move for oOoOO’s Chris Dexter. Even as an early adopter of the once-trendy witch house’s echoing hysterics, Dexter’s music always sounded best when love was involved and there was someone there to help drive that stake through his heart. His earlier solo work was easily lumped in with the subgenre he refused to associate with, but with the help of vocalists (and compelling vocal samples), oOoOO has always sounded like something bigger than a fad.
Christopher Dexter Greenspan’s last EP under the oOoOO moniker was entitled Our Love Is Hurting Us. This record, his first LP despite actively releasing records for about three years, is called Without Your Love. What both of these releases tell us is that love is a necessary but, at least for Greenspan, mostly malevolent force; it causes more issues than it solves.
On ‘Without Your Love’, San Francisco’s Chris Dexter finds himself in an awkward position. When the earliest oOoOO productions oozed onto the internet in early 2010, his etheric gusts of soft synth and jittery rhythms felt both audacious and super-modern. After that, of course, the witch house micro-trend became a bandwagon, and on this, his first album proper, Dexter is basically in much the same position as all the other bedroom-production schmoes, tinkering with the same cracked software.
So maybe there are those of you who’ve clicked on this article purely because you’ve spotted witchhouse-r Chris Dexter’s hipster recording alias, and right now you’re ready to hate-read the shit out of a 4 star review with the kind of loathing normally reserved for molesters. Witchhouse, the archetypal hipster genre, gets a bad rap, and has done ever since godfathers Salem landed on the net. Some say it’s disposable (flaky hipster fluff), or musically amateur, or indeed contrived, but since when have these traits ever been a bar to good music making? And shoot me down, but aren’t the majority of brand new genres in this, the era of rehash, the product of the hipster zones? You could also argue that the ghost-y indie rn’b / witchhouse artists are no different to their vanguard counterparts in dance music and electronica, who conversely are seen as credible.
‘Without Your Love’, the debut from San Francisco producer Chris Dexter, is an album that requires all your time and emotion. There are no quick fixes; you need to give yourself over to oOoOO’s distinct world.Dexter’s sound is otherworldly and distinctly atmospheric; almost unmusical. That doesn’t mean to say it can’t be affecting and compelling though.