PLAYING COLUMBUS: Damn the Witch Siren Makes ‘Magic’ on New album

Their first album since 2015’s Back to Dreaming, Damn the Witch Siren’s latest release, Red Magic is brooding and addictive. The band’s tags on Bandcamp almost say it all: “electronic, electropop, pop, sex, witch rock, Columbus,” they read. But along with the sex, and the dance beats, and the fizzy electronics, Damn the Witch Siren have, once again, produced a project which manages to make lyrically ambitious work sound effortless.

“On nights when I’m feeling superstitious/I light all the candles and burn the corners of my room,” starts Red Magic on opener “Sex U Up.” But the exterior ritual set up by these opening lines quickly turn interior; attention transitions from the “room” to “skin,” which, much like the image of burning candles before it, “spills.” Simultaneous to this physical transition, the lyrics introduce a level of–apparently sensual–taste, which continues through the rest of the song; “superstitious” becomes “superdelicious,” though the similarity between the words suggests that the two are closely tied.

In other words, Red Magic immediately introduces a complicated relationship between body and ceremony, sex and superstition. But it succeeds in doing this work without sounding strenuous; singer Bobbi Kitten’s driving vocals, paired with a quickening dance beat, are irresistible, weaving together to make music which almost compels the listener to moan along – vowels, notes, whatever halves of lyrics you can hear over the throbbed electronic sounds.

Formed in 2012, Damn the Witch Siren is made up of Columbus locals Krista Botjer and Nathan Photos (stage names Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf, respectively) who came together after discovering a shared interest in experimentation and interdisciplinary art. Since then, they’ve collaborated on three albums and one EP. It’s a pretty prolific output for two people in six years, and their live performances are even more ambitious – the pair draw on theater backgrounds to build elaborately composed performances heavy on visual elements.

The band’s been interested in gendered experience, sexuality, and magic since the beginning, so while Red Magic doesn’t necessarily signal a stylistic depart for Damn the Witch Siren, the sleek production and general breadth of sounds invoked exemplify the years and labor that have gone into the project. One stand-out on the album is “Forever Young,” which invests a full minute in layered beats and noises reminiscent of twinkling lights before Kitten’s voice is folded in. It’s an excellent paring of high and low: quicker, vibration-heavy noises sometimes migrate into piercing range, and Kitten’s voice is partially obscured by twanging synths, but a low and steady bass beat grounds the song throughout.

Above all, each song on Red Magic is dance-able – in fact, the album almost insists upon movement. It’s fun and finessed pop, anchored by lyrics deeply interested in embodiment and bodily possibilities. And until the band’s album release party (Saturday, February 10th at Spacebar, accompanied by Columbus’ own Betsy Ross and Osea Merdis), I plan on binge-listening; letting myself get lost in the varied sounds; feeling both scary and sweet.

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Double Happiness to Close After 7-year Run

It’s been a short but meaningful run for Double Happiness, which will close its doors on November 25th after seven years of music, drinks, and community-building. Opened and run by Yalan Papillons, with additional booking by Jenny Donaldson, the bar and venue hosted DJ sets, electronic music shows, and local artist showcases, as well as niche events like “Manicure Monday.”

Double Happiness will be played out by a run of free shows at the end of November, hosting sets by Columbus locals Youth Hostel, Dogbite, Nuclear Moms, Pink Reason, and more. It’s a line-up which, frankly, highlights the ways in which white men dominate the punk scene. One departure from this slew of bro-punk, however, is Betsy Ross, whose emotive vocals by Charity Crowe are refreshing in their clarity. Double Happiness’ last and final show will migrate away from the theme of white men as well. On November 25th, hosted by Polar Entertainment, the night will feature “special guests,” joined by Columbus Hip Hop artists Mood and Lone Catalysts.

Many have noted the venue for its Chinese decor, inspired by Papillons’ family, but what is truly significant about Double Happiness is the role it has played as incubator for many of Columbus’ local bands. More mainstream than a DIY venue, but smaller than other, more commercial spots, Double Happiness served as an outward facing door to the Columbus music scene, and a portal for those who would otherwise be out of the loop.

Along with local acts and EP releases, Double Happiness has hosted nationally touring artists like Angel Olsen, Helado Negro, (Sandy) Alex G., and Half Waif. Their catalogue of artists–the entirety of which can be found on their website–is an impressive mix in terms of both genre and popularity. Large acts have never shied away from the venue, despite its close quarters. One of the bar’s first publicized shows, in fact, was the official after party for Bright Eyes, after the cult favorite played at one of Columbus’ larger venues, Express Live.

It’s also worth noting that Double Happiness is one of few bars and venues which is both run and booked by a woman of color. Papillons highlighted community within the space, running the venue as all-ages, and limiting sales of national beers. And while no safer space is truly safe, it’s sad to see a venue which strove to center at-risk audiences be shut down.

Columbus will miss Double Happiness’ unique approach to booking, as well as its warmth and locality. To get in your last goodbyes–and maybe a few drinks, as well–catch one of the venue’s “farewell” shows, detailed on the calendar below.

All photos courtesy of Double Happiness’ Facebook Page