As I mentioned a few weeks ago, a friend of mine – an artist and fellow blogger – reached out to me about the imminent release of Esben and The Witch’s “Violet Cries” (31 January 2011 in the UK, 8 February 2011 in the USA). She asked (no, she demanded!) that she review the album; of course I said yes. For those that do not know Esben and The Witch, the band takes their name from a Danish folk tale, where a literal “little” brother is the hero, and hails from Brighton, UK. This post-punk trio, I think, is going to perk the ears of many listeners/readers. So, with no further ado, I would like to thank Painted Bird for coming back and volunteering her review. I hope we see more of her incredible writing in the weeks to come (hint!).
As an artist, before the music on the album had a chance to catch me, the cover surely did. The expression of the weeping trees inspired that same feeling in me as I pondered the cover for quite some time. The conjugated stalagmites of ice that hang helplessly from the trees portray a scene that seems to set in a dark, quiet area of forest surrounded by water that ripples in the wind. There is a sense of fighting, a want to escape, but there is a lack of effort in the conviction to leave and, therefore, Esben and the Witch give us “Violet Cries.”
I hear it, I hear them, they palpitate in the crevices of my mind and it is soothing but emotion laden. They conduct music much like a river flow: the talent is everlasting and scarring. Why does it scar? Because unlike most music, even the background sounds are to be remembered, etching themselves into your memory. Take “Light Streams,” though the lead vocals are the dominant component of the song, it is the background sounds and vocal effects that haunt you. It is too easy to compare them to contemporary artists and say that they are a gothic version of Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs; reality, the only comparison to their kind of mastery of songwriting and recording would be Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Five times into listening “Violet Cries,” I found myself most attracted to the painfully agitated songs. The cries and songs and the rhythms are not violet, but emotionally violent in a post-punk sense. Whether it is the drama and anger of “Warpath” or wispily contemplative “Marine Fields Glow,” Ebsen and the Witch turns mundane emotional unrest to monuments of beauty.
Esben and the Witch, who simply relish in emotional elaboration, approach their music to balance noise and melody, silence and audibility. Like an artist playing with black and white, in their simplicity there is a world of gray that becomes colorful and memorable like a twilight moment of epiphany. Your heart may be racing at moments when you listen to this album, but what will really catch you is the fact that “Violet Cries” is a heart stopper.
Advice: listen to this music on a sad, rainy day and enjoy the artistry.
2. Marching Song
3. Marine Field Glow
4. Light Streams
5. Hexagons IV
11. Lucia, At the Precipice – bonus track
12. They Use Smiles to Bury You – bonus track
Keep up with Esben and the Witch at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.
Here are two video clips, the first the official video for “Marching Song,” the second a live version of “Marching Song.” Both are taken from the matadorrec YouTube Channel.