Album Review

Violet Cries

Violet Cries

by Esben and the Witch


Matador
8.4 / 10
11th February

Reviewed by Courtney Sanders


When one calls their band Esben and the Witch, their debut album Violet Cries and packages it within a gate-fold of dead trees, their direction if obvious, and I imagine purposeful: swooning melancholia set within a bed of alternative-rock and post punk musicality is Esben and the Witch, part and parcel. And expected results are often boring because of their formulaic nature. But Esben and the Witch approach their aesthetic with such purpose that Violet Cries, rather than contrite, is as interesting as it would have been if the cover hadn’t been so telling.

Esben and the Witch have taken the dedication to said direction and achieved it with a series of simple elements utilized in increasingly unique and disparate ways throughout Violet Cries, from the get-go forward - driving female vocals, piano and aggressive guitars swarm around minimalist drumming and rise and fall throughout loud-quiet song structures.

Opening track ‘Argyria’ is almost indeterminable until it builds into a chaotically controlled mess of swarming sound, while ‘Light Stream’ is a more elaborate example. Starting with vocal, rudimentary drum beat and sporadic guitar chords, front-woman Rachel Davies’ lyrics float through the mix like a Florence and the Machine ballad (and her vocals and subject matter – ‘the darkness fills my lungs’ – are actually uncannily similar at times). To Esben and the Witch’s credit, tracks towards the end of the album - ‘Warpath’ and ‘Eumenides’ in particular - evoke the kind of sound-track-able emotiveness of new wave predecessors Echo and the Bunnymen, while simultaneously suggesting that this band appreciates the album proper as a medium: the contrast and development between the nonchalance of opening track ‘Argyria’, and the intensity of the aforementioned ‘Eumenides’ is startling, but the band bookend the chaos of Violet Cries with a sparse, decadent final message in album closer ‘Swans’.

This is not a new aesthetic - dark mysticism has been floating in and out of black clad musicians and cult nineties films for a long time. But from those contemporary artists attempting to carve a niche in said genre, Esben and the Witch are certainly the most dedicated (check out their accompanying video clips, website and a myriad of other visual material all evoking the Four Corners), and because of this, one of the exciting.






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