My latest batch of music reviews for Beat:
- Local dream-pop outfit, the frustrating-to-type Sikap Sempurna's self-titled debut EP
- Portland, Oregon's experimental art rockers Menomena Live @ The East Brunswick Club
and you can still catch reviews of:
- The Hidden Venture - Live At St. Andrews,
- Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde,
- Pearl Jam - Live On Ten Legs
- and, of course, Radiohead - The King of Limbs
you want more? you asked for it
Esben And The Witch - Violet Cries (Matador)
Like another certain successful female artist with a similarly Victorian-era name (need a hint? replace Witch with Machine); Esben and the Witch features a powerful set of lungs belting across dark and eloquent songs, but that’s where the comparisons end. Where Florence mines grand-staged pop with gothic frills, E&TW take the same darker preoccupations and salient tendencies and exert them to diabolical extremes. Mixing and merging them with dissonant aesthetics like industrial noise and post-rock textures.
At times they remind of recent darkwave sensations Warpaint, and the glacial beauty of The xx (particularly on the icy Hexagons IV), not just in their shared musical territory but also in their self-same buzz built on well-crafted atmospheres. The focus of which, is always on the dreamy croon of Rachel Davies’ vocals. Her lyrics built like poetry or Greek tragedies, it’d be emo if it wasn’t so well-read. Chorea is as abrasive as its subject matter with gruesomely depictive lyrics “Like mad dogs they slather/writhing and rabid/feverishly twisting/a tragic display.” Argyria hears “strange metallic voices” while Light Streams laments “I will drown here/I will die here/bathed in your demise”. Cheery stuff. The macabre words matched by the building storm of their soundtrack, both are essentially drawn-out crescendos in structure.
And that’s the way it all appears at first, an impressive wash of dense noise. Textures of reverberating guitar and echoes that smear and blur into each other, like great veils of static fog. And unless you immerse yourself in its mists, that’s what it’ll remain. Like one great Siouxsie Sioux tune - repeated with variations.
It takes multiple listens before those sonic curtains part, revealing what’s at the heart of these dark intonations, beyond their mood-setting. Powerful titles like Marching Song, Battlecry and Warpath hint at the brutality wafting beneath the surface, but it’s dreamlike logic lies in more intangible effects, its magical menace.
That bewitched band moniker isn’t without meaning, the trick is in succumbing to their spells. Marching Song is an obvious entry point, so too the sidling Cocteau Twins glitter of Light Streams, but it is the more complex moments that’ll leave the greatest impression. Such as the astonishing Eumenides, snaking from a marble-eyed hymnal at its outset into some paganistic scare tactics of dissonant drones; before shifting and building once more to a positively tribal rhythmic breakdown. It’ll take time for Violet Cries to squeeze it’s haunting grip upon you, but once it does, you may never want it to let go.