Esben and the Witch
Violet Cries is the debut album from Esben and the Witch, a Brighton trio consisting of Daniel Copeman, Rachel Davies and Thomas Fisher.
The name “Esben and the Witch” is actually a Danish fairy tale, so from the band name alone one might surmise that the music is a bit fire-and-brimstone. As reflected by the album title and cover, it also combines an element of supernatural magic.
Listening to the album in its entirety will invoke an archaic sensation of being invaded by unknown forces. Many times the music conjures Edgar Allan Poe-like imagery, but also has a sense of lying on the outskirts of medieval times, when plagues and strange events were attributed to possession by ghoulish spirits and those that practiced anything other than the main religion, who were considered heretics.
Indeed, the album depicts various elements of nature with Davies’ voice forebodingly weaving a tale spun by random crescendos and crashes throughout almost every track. Opening song “Argyria” refers to a condition where skin becomes a bluish-grey hue: “These strange metallic voices/Gleaming white and breeding light/Minerals swim like fishes/A glorious school of glittering.”
“Marching Song” arouses an elusive sense of impending doom, while “Chorea” builds up in a dizzying dervish spin before expiring, reflecting its subject of dancing mania, wherein groups of people dance uncontrollably for no apparent reason before falling into fatigue or even death. Then “Eumenides” reflects a three-part painting by Francis Bacon based on the Greek deities of vengeance. Copeman told Spin magazine that the band purposely divided the song into three different movements to portray this, resulting in an equally haunting and soothing terpsichorean dirge.
My personal favorite track though is “Warpath,” which is especially poignant when Davies sings “secrets in my skin,” which is mirrored in the music video.
Like most debut efforts, where listeners have nothing in which to compare the album, it might take a few spins of this record in full to truly grasp and appreciate what the band is trying to achieve. There’s an intelligent aura within Esben’s sound that abandons the trite standards we’re used to.
Violet Cries will leave you wanting more but provides a transcendental experience you’ll be happy to dive back into.