Albums of 2014 #11 - Esben and the Witch - A New Nature

Esben and the Witch
A New Nature
Nostromo Records. Released September 9th.

Esben and the Witch's third album A New Nature was self-released via the Brighton trio's own Nostromo Records, a move that enabled them to release an album exactly the way they wanted and a stripped back to basics, noise-filled epic the result.

The first track to be heard from the release, the behemoth "No Dog" gave the perfect indication of that to expect, an aural storm of pummeling drums and frenetic swam of bass is unleashed immediately and this brutal, powerful intro lasts for some 90 seconds before parting to with clearer, ambient skies in which Rachel Davies' typically haunting vocals enter, lulling you into a false, hypnotic state of security before soon enough those storm return, begging you into submission with wave after wave of increased force and screams. Mesmerising.

The colder "Dig Your Fingers In" follows and unsurprisingly drops some of the anger, a delicate, spiritual world that is somewhat sparser than we are accustomed to from Esben and the Witch, beginning with little more than soft, gentle ringing guitars patterns and Rachel's shiver-inducing vocal, the atmosphere is kept on edge through before climaxing with a brutal, raw crescendo of pummeling guitar noise.

The album's centre-piece is the near fifteen minute colossal "Jungle", a never hurried (obviously) slow rising masterpiece in tension and dramatic, expansive songcraft. As cinematic as it gets with a horn solo the sandwich to some incredible musicianship and atmosphere which finally swells to a deafening wall of sound conclusion. It leaves you quite speechless. 

It's pretty hard to come close to what came before, the flip side is the calm after the storm with "Bathed In Light" as sparse, intimate and beautiful as we've ever heard from the band with "Blood Teaching" a raw, primal insight to both the dark and light on the album. A truly, truly wonderful album it is too.

Esben and the Witch #10 - Dig Your Fingers In

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The last time I wrote about Esben and the Witch it was to rave about the behemoth "No Dog", now the trio return with the more subtle (that wouldn't be hard, in truth) "Dig Your Fingers In". The latest track to see the light from their new album A New Nature, due September 9th and available fromRough Trade amongst others.

"Dig Your Fingers In" deals in a delicate, spiritual world and is somewhat sparser than you are perhaps accustomed to from Esben, beginning with little more than soft, gentle ringing guitars patterns and Rachels' shiver-inducing vocal, the atmosphere is kept on edge through before climaxing with a brutal, raw crescendo of pummeling guitar noise.

Exceptional, but you probably didn't expect anything else.

Esben play London's Oslo next Thursday - I'm looking forward to it. Details.

The Great Escape - Friday Preview

The Great Escape 2014 - Five for Friday 9th May.

If you missed my introduction and preview of Thursday, head here.

French For Rabbits - TGE Page
VENUE / DATE & TIME
9th May 2014 1:15pm - 2:00pm
10th May 2014 8:00pm - 8:30pm







I will finally be catching up with New Zealand duo French For Rabbits. I can't quite remember why I missed them last time they were in London but in the famous words of Mcfadden and Whitehead, there ain't no stopping me (us) now...

The gorgeous, melancholia drenched dream-folk of their most recent track "Goat" gives a perfect example of what to expect from their performance, a beautiful hushed vocal and calming guitars combining to steal your heart. Sounds like the perfect start to the days music to me.



September Girls - TGE Page
VENUE / DATE & TIME
9th May 2014 1:45pm - 2:15pm
9th May 2014 6:30pm - 7:00pm







Long time blog favourites September Girls are a must-see next week and are another act I've talked about at length here (and as such I'll keep this post short, you should have the idea by now).

Their cavernous vocals, reverb-heavy guitars and precise drum beats provide a buzzing mix of 60's girl pop and 70's noir, stir in some sweetly harmonies and nods of approval are sure to follow.



Esben & The Witch - Facebook
VENUE / DATE & TIME
SHIPWRIGHTS YARD
9th May 2014 4:10pm - 4:35pm (an Alternative Escape show)

Local Brighton trio Esben and the Witch will play an Alternative Escape show (they aren't on the main bill for some unknown reason), a short set (boo) but one that promises to be an essential inclusion for your Friday plans...

I hope recent single "No Dog" gets an airing, an uncompromising, frenetic and brilliant track which grabs you by both arms and begs you to listen as pummeling drums and guitars collide with Rachel Davies' haunting vocals, it's a jaw-dropping listen and one that could be even better live.



Lyla Foy - TGE Page
VENUE / DATE & TIME
9th May 2014 7:30pm - 8:00pm




I've conspired to miss every Lyla Foy gig since her show at Komedia (then on the bill as Wall) at last years Great Escape, I'm promising to make amends and get my first live taster of her beautiful debut album Mirrors The Sky.

"Feather Tongue" highlights Lyla's sound perfectly, both understated and beautiful combining her heart-melting vocals with a perfect melody of gentle percussion and a bubbling synth undercurrent. The results is a gorgeous, dreamy atmosphere that is guaranteed to make your heart skip a beat or two.



Broken Twin - TGE Page
VENUE / DATE & TIME
9th May 2014 9:00pm - 9:30pm




I still can't decide where I'll be heading at 9pm on Friday (and I probably won't until just before I need to) so I'm going to cheat and make my five picks for the day become six. A heart-wrenching clash sees Broken Twin and Sophie Jamieson play at exactly the same time (thankfully I'll be seeing both artists in London during next week to take away the pain of the clash for me personally).

Broken Twin's debut album May was released this week is already my most played record of 2014 (recently overtaking the equally magnificent July by Marissa Nadler), as intimate and arresting an experience as music can offer, bring your quiet shoes, turn your phone off and immerse yourself in Majke's beautiful, dark melancholia.

Here's one of my favourite tracks from May, "Sun Has Gone":



Sophie Jamieson - TGE Page
VENUE / DATE & TIME
9th May 2014 9:15pm - 9:45pm




As I just alluded to, Sophie Jamieson plays at the same time as Broken Twin and as such I have a decision to make. Sophie is a prolific gig player around London but has never once let me down when I've seen her live, always a rare treat with her ever expanding band (now complete as a quartet?) adding extra depth, ambiance and beauty to her wonderful talents.

Last time I saw her play, she played "Dinah", "Ode to the East", "Stain", "Other", "Waterloo" and one more that I can't quite remember - that's pretty much as knock out half an hour set as you'll likely to hear. If you are thinking about heading to see Sophie, the one thing I can guarantee is that you will not be disappointed.



See Also. Las Kellies at The Tube (8pm), Sea Change at Neighbourhood (11pm)

Esben and the Witch #9 - No Dog

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Right, I'm cutting straight to the chase here. That's as someone who has loved Esben and the Witch since the very beginning (with a hard copy of their debut EP '33 sitting in my collection to back that up). This song is their best ever. Yes, better than "Marching Song" better than "Argyria", "Chorea", "Corridors", "Lucia", the lot.

"No Dog" is taken from a forthcoming split release with Thought Forms and is quite simply incredible. The track waste no time letting you know what's in store for you, the aural storm of noise kicks off  immediately as pummeling drums and a frenetic swam of bass is unleashed on the perhaps unsuspecting listening, this brutal, powerful intro lasts for some 90 seconds before parting to with clearer, ambient skies in which Rachel Davies' typically haunting vocals enter, lulling you into a false, hypnotic state of security before soon enough those storm return, begging you into submission with wave after wave of increased force and screams. Mesmerising.

The Esben and the Witch / Thought Forms 12" split (both sides run for sixteen minutes yet the number of tracks on the release reads two for Esben and four for TF's). Quantity never beats quality, and certainly not when the taster is this good. The split is available on limited 12" vinyl via Invada Records April 7th with pre-orders available now.

The band are currently in the middle of a Pledge Music campaign to record and release their third LP, with the prospect of a limited, exclusive EP and more for the money rich, it's something you'll probably want to get involved with too. Head here for more on that.



My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part One - 25-22

The last week was spent looking forward to 2014 with my own series of ten 'Tips For 2014'. I'm pretty happy with the list and look forward to seeing how they get on next year (and the same goes for those who I listed as ones to watch in 2013 that never released anything like Alice Jemima or Bird). This week sees the focus switch to my favourite releases of 2013, I wrote a short-list (well I guess a long-list) of albums I've been listening to the most this year and it came to about 34, I whittled down slowly to what you'll find posted over the next seven days. The order changes depending on what time of the day so don't take much of it all that seriously. There are obviously hundreds more albums released this year that I've not even heard, that's one of the reasons I prefer to say 'my favourite' rather than the best, everything here is my subjective opinion.

2013 was a good year for albums of me. The artists responsible for my favourite album of 2009 (Editors), 2010 (Caitlin Rose) and 2011 (The Joy Formidable) all releasing an album alongside some of my all-time favourites, I'll leave the introduction there to avoid further spoilers and get started. They'll be posted here at a rate of four albums a day for the next six days followed my number one on Sunday. That's if I get all the words written on time - It was my Daughter's first birthday last week so I've been a little bit preoccupied with real life.

My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part One - 25-22

Direct Links to Albums (updated as they become live) : 25 - 22 // 21 - 18 // 17 - 14 // 13 - 10 // 9 - 6 // 5 - 2 // 1

25. Big Deal - June Goom

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I'm kicking off this years album run down with a band that I belatedly fell for in 2013, Big Deal. June Gloom is their second album and leaves behind the whimsical folk of debut Lights Out for a big, soaring guitar pop album full of addictive hooks, relentless energy and songs that recall the youthful memories of falling in and out of love.

The best starting point is "Dream Machines", it instantly radiates like the carefree summer anthem it should become with glistening guitars and robotic beats complimenting the dual toned vocals of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood. "In Your Car" and "Swapping Spit" both adopt a similar formula built around familiar power-pop foundations with distorted fuzz and echoey drums whilst "Teradactol" is a completely different monster formed around a cacophony of noise and aggression.

There are softer acoustic moments that reward equally, opening track "Golden Light" starts as a languid beauty full of saccharine-sweet vocals and perfect harmonies before punchy beats breathe new life into it while the dreamy bliss of "Pristine" is perhaps the most intimate and personal track on the album.

June Bloom sees Big Deal become a fully realised band clearly having fun and making some pretty sweet noise too - long may that continue.




24 Torres - Torres

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The self titled debut by Mackenzie Scott's Torres was one of my early year highlights, an affecting but beautiful listen throughout (perhaps too difficult a listen for some) introducing a versatile voice that will knock you for six with a stirring group of songs that provide a white knuckle ride of powerful and devastating emotion.

The track which propelled Torres to the attention of many blogs was the six minute tour-de-force "Honey", a fractured, raw anthem to rival the likes of EMA, full of breathtaking intimacy ("Everything hurts but it’s fine, happens all the time") and intensity with progressive shades of darkness contrasting between Mackenzie's velvet-toned vocal and her accompanying fuzzed-up guitar strums.

The brutally honest "Jealousy and I" possesses one the most personal lines I've heard all year, "I'm suffocating you I know, it's just the way I know to love" amongst bare-boned guitar shimmers is someone pouring out their heart and the result is as spine-tingling a moment as music will give you. The stark and un-rushed "Come to Terms" is equally spellbinding, an acoustic ballad with a heartfelt melody that is beautifully simple and complex at the same time - melancholia has rarely sounded so good.

I can't really do a Torres review without mentioning the gorgeous "November Baby" either, a moment to saviour, bruised, personal and oh so damn beautiful.




23. Oh Land - Wish Bone

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Something a little different than my list pick now. The only pure pop album on my list (I decided against including Haim because half their debut was released last year and covered by me at length then). Oh Land's third LP (I keep reading second but that's ignoring Fauna) Wish Bone is nothing short of mood-enhancing brilliance which flutters around multiple genres within 13 dance-floor friendly Scandi-pop anthems.

Nanna Oland Fabricius doesn't just have an effortless knack of producing music full of dynamic energy and propulsive rhythms, she's also got a truly stunning voice and writes brilliant pop hits. "Renaissance Girls" could almost be a sister track to earlier songs "Sun of a Gun" and "White Nights", full of clattering beats and ultra-infectious rhythms topped by Nanna's soaring vocals - it's about the best power pop song I've heard all year.

Wish Bone is an album that doesn't stay on any beaten track, there's the pure Robyn-esque pop of the quirky and brilliant "My Boxer" or the funk-laden groove of the infectious "Pyromaniac" and "3 Chances" (possible the first song to mention both kittens and zombies), a beautiful, saccharine sweet ballad amongst softer, heart-felt moments like "Love You Better" but "Bird in an Aeroplane" is perhaps the best indication of Oh Land's glittery charm.




22. Esben and the Witch - Wash the Sins not Only the Face

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Esben and the Witch return with 'the difficult second album' Wash the Sins not Only the Face and produce something that's just as impressive as their debut. Of course the prevalent mood here is stark, chilly beats built around swirling, creeping guitars but Rachel Davies ethereal vocals are more prominent this time and the beautiful scary mood reaches more towards the half light realms of haunting dreamscapes.

Of course there are terrifying moments, "Iceland Spar" though opens the album with typically Esben-esque noise, instantly scorching out your heart with uncontainable energy where pummeling drums and heavy guitars collide before parting for Rachel's chilly vocal chorus, the contrast between the two continues throughout and imposes itself with wondrous levels of claustrophobia. "Deathwaltz" similarly deals in dramatic atmospherics, though not quite the grim death-march the name indicates, shimmering guitarscapes offer a kaleidoscopic tapestry not heard from the band before, creeping with a mysterious intensity amongst unsettling swirls and Rachel Davies haunting, creatures of the night air chanting.

"Despair" is a short and sharp blast of a nightmarish whirlpool whilst the pulsating "Yellow Wood" builds and builds to a truly stunning climax  yet my highlight is the soft, haunting intimacy of the icy ballad "The Fall of Glorieta Mountain", a delicate thing of true beauty it sends shivers right through me. Of course, being and Esben and the Witch album we're not allowed to end in blissful melancholy and the track is followed by "Smashed to Pieces in the Still of the Night", a foreboding finale of epic drums and searing guitars.

Esben and the Witch #8 - The Fall of Glorieta Mountain

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I've definitely not posted about Esben and the Witch here enough recently. One of the major pitfalls of running a new music blog amongst a full time job, family, running regimes and an active social life is spare time can be pretty sparse. By the very nature of this, I spend quite a vast majority of my free time writing/listening to new music so by default actually listening to all the albums from artists I've previously featured can be tough. It's pretty silly when you think about it - you spend all this time building up a band, saying how great they are etc and then promptly forget about them in favour of 'your new favourite thing' shortly after they finally release their album. C'est La Vie.

I return to the Brighton trio with a spine-tingling video to "The Fall of Glorieta Mountain", a gorgeous, softening track taken from January's full length Wash The Sins Not Only The Face, it showcases an intimate side to the band far removed from the imposing, hard-hitting drums and rallying cries that propel the likes of "Iceland Spar" or "Marching Song". Here Rachel Davies beautiful vocals are the centre point, shrouded in languid, glistening guitars whilst the odd bit of subtle sythns creep up on you with devastating impact.

I came across another track recorded for the same Bowlegs session, "Yellow Wood" which starts similarly restrained but is filled with a more typically 'Esben' sound, with ominous, claustrophobic soundscapes created by metronomic electronics, shimmering guitars and haunting, imposing vocals building and building to a climatic veil of darkness as Rachel's vocals turn to despair around a deafening crescendo of noise.

Two incredible live videos which will surely make the following sentence sound even better. Esben and the Witch are due to head out on a week long UK tour next month, including a date at London's The Lexington on October 7th (full dates).



Esben and the Witch #7 - Despair

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Esben & The Witch have released the latest track to be taken from their soon to be released second LP Wash The Sins Not Only The Face (due 21st Jan via Matador), the perfectly titled "Despair", short and sharp it's sound-tracked by a nightmarish whirlpool of swirling guitars and penetrating drum beats, Esben & The Witch have never been one to hide behinds screens and "Despair" has its heart on its sleeve, dark, stirring, brilliant.

I can't wait to hear this one live, just don't expect me to be doing the video's choreographed dance moves - a chance to do just that will happen soon when Esben & The Witch play an in-store at Rough Trade East on January 22nd with a UK/Euro tour following in February - dates.

Esben and the Witch #6 - Deathwaltz

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It's Halloween so what better than a themed post by a band called Esben and the Witch, who this week have announced their welcome return with the first track from their forthcoming second LP entitled Wash The Sins Not Only The Face (due for released January 21st 2013 via Matador). With their debut Violet Cries being one of my favourite albums of 2011 I'm obviously excited to hear this one in full and "Deathwaltz" has certainly done its job and peaked up my curiosity...

Esben and the Witch have always dealt in dramatic atmospherics and "Deathwaltz" is no exception, though not quite the grim death-march the name indicates, shimmering guitarscapes offer a kaleidoscopic tapestry not heard from the band before, but it wouldn't be the same Esben if the track didn't creep along with a mysterious intensity, with sonically unsettling swirls and Rachel Davies ethereal vocals at the fore "Deathwaltz" retains the haunting, creatures of the night air for which I, and so many others, have come accustomed to from the Brighton trio - they'll be more to come next year for sure.

The band have announced a UK/Euro tour for early next year (dates) and you can pre-order the LP direct from the band here (it comes with a limited 7" containing two exclusive tracks thrown in too) then make sure you grab the free Mp3 of the track here too.