Esben and the Witch crafts an enjoyably dark brew

By Patrick Wagner

Esben and the Witch

Violet Cries

Rocks like: The xx, Siouxsie and the Banshees,… Esben and the Witch

Violet Cries

Rocks like: The xx, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Black Angels

Matador Records

Grade: B+

Although Siouxsie and the Banshees hasn’t put out an album in 15 years, its musical legacy lives on in the post-post-post-punk era. Esben and the Witch’s debut album, Violet Cries, seems to channel its complex, melodic rhythms alongside a bevy of other diverse gothic influences.

Pervading the UK’s band’s LP are wispy, soul-inspired vocals familiar to fans of the xx that float above psychedelic guitarwork reminiscent of The Black Angels, with occasional hints of Joy Division’s mechanical dirges. However, with the addition of electronic undertones and some impressive drum and cymbal work, it’s hard to think of another band with this same sound.

Though it recalls quite a few figures in the history of dark music as influences, Esben and the Witch never quite ventures into the realm of imitation. “Marching Song” comes across as a spaced-out punk-rock attack, while other tracks like “Eumenides” move between heavy electronics and more of those Siouxsie-styled vocal and drum breaks.

Though each song is a wonderful collage of dark rock ’n’ roll, there’s a general lack of cohesion that keeps Violet Cries from rising above the indie-rock pack and truly establishing itself as a genre-defining album. I’m holding out for future releases, but if you have any interest in the above artists, Esben and the Witch’s current album is definitely worth checking out.