Album Review: Esben and the Witch – Violet Cries

By on Thursday, 24th February 2011 at 12:00 pm

Words by Natalie Stas

Esben and the Witch‘s nightmarish debut album ‘Violet Cries’ breathes life into a resurge of all things Gothic, walking hand in hand with the recent popularity of the vampire, wine-stained lips and black velvet. But amid all the press accolades and their shortlisting on the BBC Sound of 2011, don’t assume this places the band anywhere near Chris Moyles or primetime radio. The album is crawling in familiar Gothic signifiers: witches, plague, death and a real sense of despair. This Brighton trio’s fixation with darkness is not full of irony, resentment or rooted in commercial angst: their melodies rumble in ambience, evoke feelings of dread and solemnity, only to be challenged by the overriding sensuality of it all.

The most prominent track is ‘Marine Fields Glow’, and in true Gothic tradition, atmosphere becomes everything. Singer Rachel Davies’s heart-shattering lyrics are transfixed in conflicts between love and war compelling even the most foreboding narcissists. This constant battle between opposites continues in ‘Hexagon IV’, where light fluttering guitars and beautiful percussion are submerged in dark shadowy dynamics. The trio carve an eerie fairy-tale aesthetic and you can almost imagine yourself in the foggy fjords of Scandinavia, or playing the lead in a Scorsese film. Davies’s bewitching voice will not fail to draw listeners into her ethereal realm.

‘Violet Cries’ has a bone-chilling sound that is simply masterful, and the attention to detail separates this album from just a mere East London fashion trend. Their only real defeat is the struggle to form a constant; songs begin to blur as delicacies of the guitars lack the ability to see it through, eventually melting into distant cries. But if you’re willing to embrace music that doesn’t replicate the formulaic, or isn’t always accessible, then you won’t be disappointed.


‘Violet Cries’ by Esben and the Witch is available now from Matador.

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