Esben and The Witch

Esben and the Witch are a Brighton trio who take their name from a Danish fairytale involving cruelty to children, ritual slaughter and all manner of unpleasantness. Obviously there was something about the dread that pervades the tale which appealed to the members of EATW. Some of that atmosphere - well, a lot, to be fair - has been brought to bear on the group. Their music is ethereal, only more in the eerie than Enya sense of the word, an eeriness inspired as much by books as any record - they're as into Bacon and Bosch as they are Björk or (Kate) Bush.

It's music for big, dark, gloomy, intimidating but oddly inviting haunted houses; houses that are full of fearful silences, empty rooms, cobwebs and rocking chairs that move, even though no one has sat in them for years. Esben remind you of the malice in wonderland, the beauty in horror and the horror in beauty, that sort of stuff. They claim their influences are "glaciers,
caverns and waning moons", and insist they were encouraged to write the songs - romantically-dark tales of mystery and woe clearly indebted to Poe - on their debut five-track EP, 33, by "literature, nature and sorrow".

They seem to have some knowledge of life's less appealing aspects, a feeling enhanced by references to machetes, and the scything, the drilling noises, the pummelling low bass that underpins the circling guitar of the last track on their MySpace, Corridors. But really, this feeling is everywhere in Esben'stremulous but ultimately tumultuous siren songs.

"We have tried to combine personal experience and emotion with intriguing stories, concepts and imagery to create something unique," they say.

Sound-wise, Esben hover enigmatically between goth, electronica, trip-hop and post-rock. There are echoes in Davies's impeccably enunciated vocals of Siouxsie's unholy caterwaul. In Fisher and Copeman's by turns soft and stormy instrumental interference of Killing Joke's tribal thunder, there are echoes of Aphex's glitchy gall, of Portishead's serene menace and of the abstract invention of Radiohead circa Kid A. These are quietly disturbing sonic fables with gentle yet portentous intros, middle sections full of rumbling foreboding and crashing, climactic codas. "We're certainly not actively seeking darkness," they declare, interrupting a séance to put the dead into deadpan. "It just appears that some of the more interesting things aren't always particularly well lit …"

Subnote - Apologies to Paul Lester for viciously stealing his very well written article on Esben and The Witch


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Constellations Festival

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