Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Esben And The Witch - The Marching Song EP (Matador)

If you haven't heard Esben And The Witch yet, this EP showcases faithfully and succinctly their talent for creating atmospheric, menacing and refreshingly unusual musical compositions. The title track, with the swelling then subsiding roar of feedback, its intermittent and fittingly hypnotic drum beat and its baleful vocal - along with an absolutely charming promo video in which the band don grisly costume make-up – demonstrate from the off that Esben And The Witch are a band who aren't afraid to ham it up in their mission to inject a bit of much-needed theatricality into the upcoming UK music scene.

The band were once described as nightmare pop, and it's a tag-line that I imagine will continue to dog their press for the rest of their career. It's misleading, though, as this EP proves. While the 'nightmare' part conjures (for me, at least) expectations of discordant, fists-on-piano noises and screaming, and the completely contradictory 'pop' part suggests catchy hooks and commercial viability, Marching Band defies all these connotations. The hazy synth sounds, echo-y vocals and restrained melody of 'Done Because We Are Too Menny' is a perfect example of how theirs is a sound that would be better described as 'dreamlike'. The EP is sombre, and at times the keyboards and effects on Souvenirs evoke kitschy horror movie soundtracks, but never is the sound macabre or disturbing enough to warrant the word 'nightmarish'. Meanwhile, the arrangement of each track, not least with nine minute long Souvenirs, is a master class in the power of delayed gratification, with every dramatic crescendo rendered all the more exquisite by the subtlety of the build-up. The songs aren't instantly memorable, but the effect they have on you will stay with you for a long time. Surely this is the antithesis of a typical pop song?

Semantics aside, Marching Song is an EP that more than justifies the buzz that has been gathering around this Brighton band over the past year. Mesmerising and complex; if this EP is anything to go by, their upcoming first full length release with Matador will surely provide hours of enchantment.

Words : Tegan Rogers

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