Friday, October 14, 2011

Esben And The Witch: A Review Of The New Hexagons EP (And A Free MP3)

Brighton's Esben and the Witch sound like no other band making music today.

Still, that hasn't stopped a horde of writers from comparing these 2 guys-and-1 gal to a host of other acts of numerous and dubious genres; you ain't gonna hear me use the word goth.

No, Esben and the Witch have a distinctive sound and I'm reminded of what it felt like back in the mid-1980s when I'd try to describe the Cocteau Twins to someone: it was always a losing battle.

Mere words could never quite do the band justice.

Though Esben and the Witch do not sound like the Cocteau Twins, the same goes here.

On the new Hexagons EP, out 8 November on Matador Records in America, the band bridges styles and genres to create a haunting -- can't avoid that easy adjective here -- whole. Somewhere between very early Dead Can Dance, Victorialand-era Cocteau Twins, and modern new folk, Esben and the Witch produce music more fully realized than all the bands that get tagged with the ethereal tag these days.

And yet, these is the stuff of dreams here. These six tracks are so unlike just about everything I've been listening to this year that there's a thrilling sense of surprise for me when playing this EP.

Serious and yet easy to enjoy, visceral and a bit disturbing, lovely and strange, the six cuts here -- labeled "Hexagons I" through "Hexagons VI", with the titles in brackets -- echo with longing, regret, hope, and quiet, icy fury.

"Hexagons V (The Cast)" is quite simply one of the most beautiful things I've heard since 2010's "To The Sea" by Rose Elinor Dougall.

Over guitars coming in like those wavy lines in Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds' "Stranger Than Kindness", the song floats in and Rachel Davies' voice trills the words. It's like old Bel Canto but more...English. The sound of trees stripped bare. The sound of the Brighton winter and a cold, foaming sea looming on the horizon.

I'd be a fool to try to describe in words the 6 cuts here. No, I'd be doing my readers more of a favor if I just said: "Go get this -- buy the download -- when it's released on 8 November!"

Rachel Davies, Daniel Copeman, and Thomas Fisher -- Esben and the Witch -- may very well be the first (rock) band I've ever heard to bear worthy comparison to Bernard Herrmann.

Much like the late composer graced a good many weak films with his marvelous music, Esben and the Witch soundtrack a reality that needs a bit more mystery and magic.

Hexagons is just unreal. I am a new Esben and the Witch fan but now I'm a hardcore one.

You can download "Hexagons II (The Flight)" courtesy of the band and Matador Records here

Follow the band on their Facebook page:

And in the US, follow them on Matador Records

Also, please visit their lovely website: