Esben and the Witch – 33 EP

Released May 2009
By Andrew Smith

Opening with a choral burst of delicate moans, these are songs that inhabit the borderland between sleep and waking, evoking half-remembered childhood fairytales that rarely end happily ever after.  

Despite the range of textural shifts employed throughout, the central mood is achingly and consistently melancholic. Rachel Davies’ vocals often yield centre stage and melt into the brooding sonic collage, half-buried beneath droning guitars and nefarious electronics. 

Songs vary from slow-burning and climactic to disparate sections welded into surprising coherent wholes. A chunk of Eumenides is fed through a sinister effect that half-throttles the song, before mercifully relenting to chiming guitars and dance beats that could back an uptempo chart-topper.  

In terms of discernible influences, Corridors for example evokes Mezzanine-era Massive Attack shorn of the hip-hop characteristics. There are also hints of The Cure and Portishead in parts, but moved on via 21st century increments and lyrics steeped in classic literature.  

In short, this is a complex, multilayered EP that reveals its dark charms slowly to the patient listener – available now as a free legal download.

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