Crunk Witch, an eclectic and eccentric geeky duo from Maine, is known for their heavy bass, explosive vocals, phenomenal production, and chipmusic-influenced style. They’re also known for touring extensively throughout the United States. Several times a year they come through the college town that I call home, Ithaca, to jam out at one of our favorite local pizza joints, The Nines. This is just a pit stop on their journey to rock the nation, and it’s always a treat to experience the sheer energy that flows through the packed bar during their shows. At these live events, they’ve teased some new material from their latest self-titled album, released a little more than four years after their most recent album, ‘Heartbeats in Hyperspace’. ‘Crunk Witch’ is packed with what long-time fans know and love the duo for, and is sure to open new fans’ eyes to their sheer talent. So come on, everybody; there’s a place we gotta go!
Crunk Witch has a distinctly 80’s feel to a lot of their instrumentation and their aesthetic as a whole, and this is immediately apparent in the synth stabs at the beginning of the album’s first track, ‘Kings and Queens’. Brandon’s vocals start off quietly and are almost soothing in nature, but pick up upon encouraging the listeners to ‘lose control’ with him. Instrumentation begins to layer and deepen in complexity, with a simple square voice serving as the bassline, and percussion transitioning to a kick-hihat-snare-hihat pattern. While energy has been gradually mounting up to this point, an aggressive kick, snare, and heavily vibrated synth, alongside Brandon’s explosive energy, signify an abrupt but anticipated increase in volume and bass. A whistle and a crash can be heard just after the chorus, which helps contribute to the more relaxed overall tone of the verses in ‘Kings and Queens’. After another rendition of the chorus, the track decrescendoes, we find out where Crunk Witch gets their thrills (spoiler: down on Beverly Hills), crowds cheer and we’re treated to an even more energetic, final playing of the chorus. Right off the bat, ‘Crunk Witch’ proves itself to be one hell of an experience, and their live shows on this tour will definitely be worth the drive.
Speaking of driving, the next track we’ll be looking at was teased for quite some time in music video form before this album’s actual release; you can check out the video for ‘Drive’ right here, in all of its neon glory. The track starts with a mellow tone that I can only compare to an accordion in nature while Brandon sings softly in the background before a crunchy synth bassline enters as he proclaims ‘I’m the Ghost Rider’. Percussion in the verse is simple but effective in building tension, and Crunk Witch utilizes sleek, trap-esque snares as a segue between phrases. The chorus is significantly more dense than the rest of ‘Drive’, featuring aggressive hi-hat rides, punchy snares, a prominent square lead, and a showcase of Brandon’s vocal range as he sings about how his love, Hannah, has him feeling intoxicated by her emotions and her love for him. Just prior to the end of the song, Crunk Witch notes that they don’t condone drunk driving; this might seem a little goofy, but there’s a certain seriousness in this brief message here, as it’s even emboldened in the CD’s lyrics insert. ‘Drive’ wouldn’t sound out of place in a nightclub, as it’s got just the right mix of calm and excitement to keep party-goers bouncing between breaks. The production on this track is fantastic, and the amount of love that Crunk Witch has put into this album really does show.
The album’s penultimate track, ‘Believe’, may be familiar to anyone who saw the promotional video when Crunk Witch was Kickstarting this project. ‘Believe’ is an upbeat, groovy ballad that features Crunk Witch’s signature heavy bass and catchy melodies, and it’s debatably the most positive song on the album. The backing instruments during the chorus simply scream the 80’s, as does the entirety of the rest of the song. If the instrumentation weren’t so modern and were replaced with guitars, bass and drums, this wouldn’t sound out of place. The reverb on the two kicks prefacing the song’s chorus is a really slick touch; this specific phrasing reminds me of Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’, as a similar effect is utilized but occurs just before the end of the chorus, helping to emphasize the phrase ‘a bad name’. I’m left genuinely feeling a certain overtone of 80’s rock, and for such a modern, fantastic band to evoke memories of the music I remember my parents listening to is something I’m still in awe about.
Finally, we’ll take a look at ‘Close to you’, the album’s closing track. This song features a lot of square tones throughout the track on the whole; the chorus is backed by square sixteenth-note runs up and down the track’s scale, and melodic chip tones can be heard at the beginning of the song to help set the mood. ‘Close to you’ is bouncy during its first verse, and this kind of feeling is accomplished through alternating a low, bass voice and a kick on the beat, and a punchy snare and a single note in the phrase’s chord played at a higher octave on each offbeat. At the 0:55 mark, the song decreases in volume and tension builds as the explosive chorus arrives, with slower percussion and more accented, emotional vocals. The song goes through numerous different moods flawlessly, from calm to bouncy and energetic, to slow and sensual; Crunk Witch’s diverse and incredible musical talent really shows here. ‘Close to you’ is a song with lyrics professing the love that these two share, and is a sweet and emotional end to Crunk Witch’s best release yet.
‘Crunk Witch’ is available on Bandcamp for $8 USD digitally, alongside a breadth of other merchandise that can be purchased for varying prices, including vinyls, CDs, shirts, and combinations thereof. ‘Heartbeats in Hyperspace’ has held a special place in my heart since I saw these folks live for the first time a few years ago, and now that ‘Crunk Witch’ is out, it’ll be in my listening library alongside ‘Heartbeats’ for the foreseeable future. Brandon and Hannah share something truly special, and I’m ecstatic to be able to see them perform again live right here in little old Ithaca yet again. The love that these two share has given birth to some of the most high-energy, danceable synthpop music of all time, and ‘Crunk Witch’ is sure to be a hit throughout the community.