There’s nothing ethereal about a pub. Look at the list: pork scratchings? Not particularly airy or light. Pint of Fosters? Not actually that celestial. Faint smell of vomit? Kind of miles away from delicate, refined or at all heavenly.
Not then the ideal spot for Esben And The Witch to play. Not when theirs is a sound more befitting of solemn quiet, of hushed reverence, of enclosed dark spaces brushed with dread and draped with gloom.
But despite that, even wrenched from the off-putting gothic fairytale the music seems to have tumbled from, galloping from the pages like the offspring twixt the Brothers Grimm and Aphex Twin – a union that would actually take quite a bit of bedroom forward planning – they managed to achieve something a bit special.
They were intoxicating. Interesting. If they were a book, or midgets, you could even say they were unputdownable. And this is despite the fact that, in all honesty, it was hardly the greatest gig you could ever end up at. Not while there were so many souls scrabbling to look, so much of the sound was lost in the wake, and your ears were full of too many boring conversations going on at inflated volume.
But up front there was a band creating their own little bubble. A bubble furnished with skittish beats and an eerie electronic atmosphere. Something that might give rise to the tense, apprehensive ambience associated with the best West Country trip-hopians. All of it wrapped up with a real sense of drama.
Oh, the drama. Probably even deserves an exclamation mark and some italics, that. Oh, the drama! Most of it stemming from the female third of the band, Rachel Davies, channelling White Chalk era PJ Harvey; the mannered Victorian lady hanging on to her sanity with her fingernails as she washes her husband’s blood out of her best dress.
As she enunciated, and her two bandmates thrashed around her, the potential was clear to see. A real, unsinkable feeling that this band could do something truly remarkable this year.
It was spellbinding stuff. Oh, come on. One pun? A whole review with only one band-naming related pun? You should consider yourselves lucky. Those who saw Esben And The Witch here certainly did.
Esben And The Witch @ Scala, London
Esben And The Witch – Wash The Sins Not Only The Face
Esben And The Witch – Violet Cries
Esben And The Witch – Marching Song EP
Esben And The Witch @ Hobby Horse, London