Album review – Esben and the Witch


Esben and the Witch -‘Violet Cries.’ (Matador)

The first word that springs to mind when describing this album is ‘goth.’ Not in a pejorative sense (this is, after all, a blog names after the second Cure album), but in terms of the way that this music’s textures evoke dark and sensual sounds. Think of the first two Cocteau Twins albums, prime Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cranes (minus that godawful wailing)…it makes perfect sense that they’re signed to Matador, part of the family of long-established indie labels, also including 4AD and Beggars Banquet, who helped birth this sound nearly thirty years ago. Not in a revivalist sense – but rather, as a continuation.

Another word that would spring to mind when describing this album is ‘intense.’ Artistically impressive -most definitely! – but this album has taken quite a few listens to get to grips with. It may even be one of a canon of albums that would also include Nico’s Desertshore, Lou Reed’s Berlin and The Cure’s Pornography, albums that are artistically brilliant, but that you have to be in a strong state of mind to cope with. To the extent that I have wondered whether this may be an album to be appreciated and admired, rather than loved.

It certainly makes sense that ‘Marching Song’ and ‘Warpath’ have been the singles taken from this album so far, they are the tracks that are most accessible on the album, whilst retaining the spirit of Violet Cries. Album closer ‘Swans’ gives a sense of finding…if not peace, then at least, some respite.

In some way this could be the soundtrack to a particularly intense nightmare, such are the images that the music conjures up.Uneasy listening, then…and yet, startlingly, epicly, beautifully so.

Violet Cries is released by Matador on January 31.

Presenting…Esben and the Witch


Even as I head into my mid-thirties, I’m still of the belief that music has a duty to disturb as well as to delight, to intrigue, and perplex. This track was waiting for me in my inbox when I got home, and four plays in the last half hour alone, I’m still trying to get my head around this track by Esben and the Witch, entitled ‘Warpath.’

Esben and the Witch hail from Brighton and they are Daniel, Thomas and Rachel. Signed to the still achingly cool indie Matador, they are set to release their debut album Violet Cries. The press release jokes about them ‘petitioning retailers to add an “Uneasy Listening” bin card to their sales floor.’ Actually I like that idea. Their stuff is beyond ethereal. Their myspace is spooky and not in a shlock-horror way either. And it is -somehow-delicious. The only band in the world I can think to compare them to is Siouxsie and the banshees circa Juju.

This is not a track to fall asleep to, or to dance to. It is a track to give your complete and undivided attention to.

Esben and the Witch -‘Warpath.’ mp3

So far they have released the 33 EP and the limited-edition 7″ and 12″s ‘Lucia, at the Precipice’ and ‘Marching Song.’

The video for ‘Marching Song’ is very simple, very disturbing and very good:

And this video for ‘Lucia, at the precipice’ -probably wrongly -reminds me of Whistle and I’ll Come to You