Esben And The Witch - 33 EP
Laura Prior 27/08/2009
33, the debut EP by Esben and the Witch, sounds like music made by a bunch of ghosts apeing around with synths, drum machines and echoing mics. A Brighton 3-piece whose MySpace describes their influences as "glaciers and waning moons". Oh, I've had enough of this. I'm fed up with all these bands who dress like unicorns and prance around talking about faeries and caverns and rocks. Whatever happened to songs about killing everyone, or which conjure up images of huge factories billowing out black smoke? And since they're from namby-pamby Brighton, I'm sure they probably sit eating cress and organic oatcakes all day in little cafes talking about ninjas, while The Maccabees and Florence and the Machine play in the background, but I won't hold that against them.
I'm sure the old chestnut of 'moody' and 'atmospheric' is what they were aiming for, but in truth it's more dense and claustrophobic, and quite a hefty listen. It's sort-of electronica, sort-of goth-indie, in other words, sort-of of 'Frozen' by Madonna on a smaller budget.
33 does have that Mogwai quality of allowing songs to go on as long as necessary, until they each become scary, happy or thrilling fairground rides all to themselves, but in truth it's just a bit of a struggle. Esben and the Witch nearly succeed in forging a sound all their own, but the songs buckle under the weight of their style over substance. "About This Peninsula" is spacey, dark and contains extreme wailing. "Let me tell you about this peninsula", she cries! No thanks love, I'm having a Maxibon.
The woozy atmospherics of "Corridors" builds, until a sense of menace and the feeling of being deep in a pitch-dark forrest engulf the song. Just when you think it's about to get boring, it evolves further, speeds up, injects some Thom Yorke's The Eraser-lite skittering beats and becomes some, err, woodland techno party which romps past the 8-minute mark. Probably the standout track, it's still all pretty confusing. A plummy-voiced lady whispering about nature and trees and that is all very well, but one Bat For Lashes in the world is probably half-a-one too many. We certainly don't need another.
The cover art is quite good though. It's got a man on it telling you what to expect. He's going 'Aaah, me neck. Me neck sinews. I can't believe this racket. It's too much palaver to listen to. It's quite nice, it's just nicer when it stops."
Esben And The Witch