Esben and the Witch - Violet Cries

Tom Reed 24/01/2011

Rating: 3/5

Having been touted as a promising new prospect for a good while now, it seems that the release of a new record and the turn into a new year have seen the indie press decide that Esben and the Witch are due for a big breakthrough in 2011. The magnitude of that breakthrough may not be as huge as our dear NME friends are predicting however, as this is a bleak, cavernous record with little light to temper the shade.

Frontwoman Rachel Davies's voice bears some resemblance to that of Juanita Stein from goth-poppers Howling Bells - although the Esben & The Witch sound is altogether more menacing. It would seem that Portishead's brilliant Third LP has been a big influence on Esben, the hypnotic arrangements of Beth Gibbons and co. being well mined for inspiration here. Opener Argyria is a fine example of what the band are capable of, growing steadily from delicately plucked guitar into a hail of noise and Davies' haunted howl.

The record is full of hypnosis-inducing melody and repetition, occasionally recalling the post-rock textures of Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky with an extra helping of gothic darkness. Light Streams encapsulates the band's sound well, gradually building into a soporific crescendo before a closing section where Davies, almost a cappella, wails “We'll cut the sun from it's moorings” as if the world is about to end.

The disappointing fact about the record is that it rarely rises from its hazy stupor and injects some energy into proceedings. When it does, as on the sudden dancefloor ending of Eumenides, it is genuinely exciting. A shame then, that the band couldn't introduce more variety through the rest of this debut.

Release Date - 8th Feb 2011.