Bands to Watch #193: Esben and the Witch

By on Tuesday, 31st August 2010 at 12:00 pm

Describing their approach to writing recently, Esben and the Witch said that “any great piece of music should be like any great landscape: multi-faceted, subtle in places, extraordinary and ultimately exhilarating”. Which is as good a starting point as any when trying to sum up the output of this precocious Brighton three-piece. Using gothic atmospherics and taking inspiration from sources spanning Danish fairytales and the plays of Aeschylus, they build their glacial landscape around you as you listen.

While lead singer Rachel’s voice does, at times, bear a strong similarity to that of Florence Welch, more suitable comparisons can be made with the albums ‘Hounds of Love’ by Kate Bush and ‘Is This Desire’ by PJ Harvey. In both albums (as in the songs of Esben and the Witch) the environment itself, hills and valleys, wind and rain, plays an active role, shaping and overseeing events as they unfold. Going beyond the fact that all are led by strong female voices, the sense of rural isolation and superstition evoked by those albums also permeates the work of this extraordinary act.

Having recently earned a place in the indie Ivy League with Matador Records, their upcoming American tour could well be the start of something special. The video for their upcoming, limited-edition 12” ‘Marching Song’, below, is well worth a look, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see a lot more of these three faces pretty soon.


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