Esben and the Witch: Violet Cries

Esben and the Witch
Violet Cries
Matador

Violet Cries is an album that is almost impossible to describe; a sonic landscape that is constantly shifting. Each song is an atmosphere of a place never before visited. There is little traditional structure in these songs, just the interplay of the instruments creating something larger than themselves.

The percussion lays a foundation like a mirage, rock solid but likely to vanish if you look too closely. Although there are words to the songs, the effect is that of a finely tuned instrument rather than any human language. Whether in chant or dirge, Rachel Davies’ vocals build the world of each song on that foundation. Her voice ebbs from an infant murmur to a banshee wail. The use of guitar is sparse, and bass is practically non-existant, but the strings give weight and texture to all that is created by the primary coupling of vocals and percussion.

This is not music for singing along or dancing to. It is best reserved for a dark room and fully attentive listening. The cacophony will unravel itself to the listener, giving them a glimpse of things never before seen with human ears.

Esben and the Witch carry reflections of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ theatrics.  These songs are haunting and unearthly, but still manage to feel familiar. There is also an element of Homogenic-era Björk surreality.What else could one expect from a band who takes their name from an age-old Danish fairy tale?