Esben and the Witch: Wash The Sins Not Only The Face – album review

Esben and the Witch – Wash The Sins Not Only The Face (Matador Records)
Out Now

Esben and the Witch are from Brighton, they take their name from a Danish Fairy Tale full of blood and trickery. Their new album is out now and Adrian Bloxham has been listening to it for us

Esben and the Witch are from Brighton, they take their name from a Danish Fairy Tale full of blood and trickery. Like many fairy tales it has a moral and a happy ending, but to get there takes not a little bravery and suffering. The band’s music is dark and rich like the blood spilt by the witch in the story, and when you finish listening to it you realise that this will be one of the best albums to be released this year.

The feel of the record is a return to the old days of indie, raincoats and fringes. Drums and guitar, synths and singing. A nod to the old giants of the Gothic scene and a wink to the shoe gaze kids and you have the glorious sound that we find here.

Esben and the Witch create music that goes from a glorious head rush of dense guitar and drum on ‘Iceland Spar’ to sparse and simple with just a wash of sound and the frail and beautiful vocal all alone in ‘The Fall of Glorieta Mountain’. The key to most of the songs is repetition, the drum patterns circle around each other and the guitar and synths add layers over the top, bass lines dropping in and out of the mix.


The music is a contradiction. It feels polished and bright but makes you think of darkness and night time. The voice is quite lovely, breathy and wide open. But the songs make you think that it is trapped in grey bare concrete echoing around the sharp corners of a forgotten council housing estate.

The songs go from lush soundscapes on ‘Yellow Wood’ to bleak indie masterworks on ‘Slow Wave’. There are echoes of Ennio Morricone in some tracks and a true return to the earlier positive punk that turned to Goth in others. They deliberately hide the voice at the back of the mix in some songs and then mute the drums in other places; they circle around you and entrance you in their melancholy and hard shapes.

If you, like me, danced your heart out at the indie discos of your youth you too will find yourself wanting more from this band. I want more music and to see them live, they have truly got under my skin and I can’t wait for more.

Esben and the Witch’s website can be found here. They are also on facebook and on twitter as  @WEAREATW

All words by Adrian Bloxham. More work by Adrian on Louder Than War can be found here.


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