Esben And The Witch Review
Despite signing to Matador in 2010 and making the BBC Sound of 2011 shortlist, Esben And The Witch haven’t grown too big for their boots. They’re still up for playing a hot, sticky room.
Vocalist Rachel Davies starts hammering on a drum whilst ear-splitting feedback fills the small room in The Prince Albert. The violent noise paired with the claustrophobia of the room creates an exhilarating vertigo amongst the crowd. A few people at the front can’t stand the heat, and make their way out of the sweat pit.
Davies’ small frame hunches over a low mic as the military beat of ‘Marching Song’ shakes the floor. She eyeballs the audience and tells the dark tale of a battlefield. Her glassy vocals veer between childlike and sinister. She’s both predator and prey. It feels like we’re partaking in an exorcism of some sort.
Uncertainty haunts further elements of their music, it’s difficult to pin down the lyrics, and the song structures are beautifully disordered. Perfecting this chaos isn’t an easy task, eyes bulge with concentration during delivery, while the sound guy is kept busy with asks from the band. Creating the nightmare is a serious business.
Davies acknowledges that the band have neglected their hometown Brighton for some time. “It’s great to see familiar faces,” she smiles. The band appear to try and make amends by treating us to some new material, but not long after, they rush off stage. The set lasted a mere forty minutes and there’s a collective complaint from the audience. It’s a push-pull relationship with this curious trio. Let’s hope they get homesick soon so we can hear some more.
Prince Albert, Friday 24th August 2012
Words by Nisha Bhakoo
Photos by Liz Chambers