Esben and the Witch – Violet Cries - 5.4/10
Published 02-11-2011 (originally on SSG Music).
record cover

There are two basic types of horror movies: he campy, cheesy ones that end up being funny when trying to be scary, and there are the actually frightening films that make the viewer cringe or shudder. If the new Esben and the Witch full length, Violet Cries, was a horror movie, it would be touted as a truly scary movie.

The first track begins as a slow crescendo of deep, nearly inaudible bass like a creeping Jason Voorhees wielding a machete from the depths of Crystal Lake. The beast tromps after it’s prey and you know without looking that it’s after you. Synth droplets splash across this drone and slowly build as more layers chime in. It’s a slow, yet inexorable, chase that peaks about two and a half minutes in, allowing the listener a sigh of relief. At minute four, ghostly and ethereal vocals drift out from the darkness and encourage you to rest as if the monster is gone. But is it?

Violet Cries continues through nine more intensely emotional tracks. It builds and flows and creates an otherworldly atmosphere that sends shudders through you. It’s minimal yet full, layering keyboards and sparse drums with guitars and reverb-soaked vocal lines. Esben and the Witch incorporate some tinges of industrial and goth music, making classifying this release quite difficult. It’s not electronica per se, but not rock either.

On top of this dark tapestry lie the eerie vocals of Rachael Davies. She sings like PJ Harvey or a very calm Bjork. Going farther back, her vocals are in the Janis Joplin tradition of being just on the edge of control, though Davies runs hers through a stack of effects to get a feeling that’s more scary than soulful. This sound is accurately captured in the video for Marching Song.

It’s a weird and disconcerting sound that many will have a hard time connecting to, unfortunately. There is also little variation in the tone of the record, making a full listen seem longer than it actually is. The album is somewhat like walking through a field of tall corn where you don’t know how far it is to the other side, there are few melodic references to guide your path. If you’re up for an experiment or need some background music to accompany your nightmares, pick this up.

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Keywords: esben and the witch, post rock, review, ssg

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