The blurb of Initiation Rituals, Kristijan Kroupaâ€™s third release for his Alleged Witches project, promises a sound which is â€œboth singular and versatileâ€ and an â€œexploration into deep, dark, club music.â€ Naturally, as a deep house enthusiast, I picked up the record and took it home for a listen. Alleged Witches is perhaps Kroupaâ€™s most ambitious project, though he regularly produces deep house influenced techno as Christian Kroupa. As you read this review, check out Kroupaâ€™s A Dangerous Gameâ€“ itâ€™s truly a banger.
Almost immediately something was off with Initiation Rituals. Itâ€™s not the production, which is stellar (Kroupa uses no less than 50 distinct live samples for each Alleged witches track), but rather the choice of samples that is strange, and even uncomfortable considering the artist and audiences these tracks are produced for.
What exactly is so â€œoccultâ€ and â€œritualisticâ€ about Alleged Witches? And is the sound really so â€œsingularâ€ to merit a release on one of the worldâ€™s most influential contemporary electronic music labels? Does the usage of live congo and tom-tom percussive loops, pan-indigenous style vocal chants, and manipulated ambient rainforest sounds evoke a novel â€œritualistic and Voodoo vibeâ€ for mostly white European audiences and artists? When phrased this way, the project and its reception reflect racist tropes.
So I was disappointed with Initiation Rituals, and disheartened to hear that Kroupa considers Alleged Witches his â€œpriority project.â€ I do not mean to suggest that white European artists cannot be involved in the production of tribal house, but recent social reckonings have yet again reminded us that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Sure, white Europeans should be able to help produce authentic tribal house but letâ€™s do so in collaboration with the cultures from which the sounds find their origin.