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Violet Cries (Bonus Track Version)

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Album Review

Esben and the Witch's debut album, Violet Cries, has such a perfectly goth title that it’s something of a surprise that it wasn’t claimed decades ago. Likewise, the band’s brooding sound bears the dark-eyed influences of Siouxsie Sioux and Miranda Sex Garden, as well as contemporaries like Effi Briest and Zola Jesus. Esben and the Witch were nominated for the BBC’s Sound of 2011 just before Violet Cries was released, and it’s easy to hear why: even when they don’t do anything remarkably new with their ethereal style, they imbue it with a tremendous amount of passion. Nearly all of their songs come swooping in on chilly, swirling guitars and Rachel Davies' feverish vocals. Much of Violet Cries' success is due to her tremulous yet throaty voice, which is fragile enough for dream pop, but also possesses a howl that brings heat to her frosty surroundings. The album’s best moments connect with an intensity that few of their contemporaries can match: “Marching Song,” which was the title track of the band’s 2010 EP, is still a sumptuous calling card for the band, with layers of Davies' vocals swarming over intricate rhythms like a murder of crows, while “Warpath” continues the martial motif. “Light Streams” showcases Esben and the Witch’s impressive use of dynamics and space, sounding massive one moment and as intimate as a whisper the next; “Marine Fields Glow,” with its delicately dark guitars, lives up to the fairy tale eeriness of the band’s name, evoking the truly Grimm tales where children are eaten instead of living happily ever after. While there are a few moments where Violet Cries' potent atmosphere turns meandering and atonal, this is still a promising and often captivating debut from a band with a bold sound.


Formed: 2008 in Brighton, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Named after a Danish fairy tale and crafting fittingly eerie and bewitching music, Berlin via Brighton, England’s Esben & the Witch features guitarist/keyboardist Thomas Fisher, electronics/guitarist Daniel Copeman, and vocalist/percussionist Rachael Davies. The trio formed in 2008 when Fisher convinced Copeman to make the music he was working on available to the public, and the pair drafted Davies to become their singer. The band's live act drew attention, as did their self-released 2009 EP 33....
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Violet Cries (Bonus Track Version), Esben & The Witch
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