Review of Hexagons EP by Esben And The Witch

Once upon a time when asked in an interview whether or not Esben And The Witch had any limits, Multi-faceted musical virtuoso Tom Fisher claimed, "I don't think we should indulge ourselves.I would be too disappointed to return to reality." Make of that you what you will but for a band that's barely been in existence two years, the Brighton-based three-piece have already exceeded many people's expectations such is the haunting attention to detail and intricate nature of their recorded output to date.

Esben And The Witch Hexagons EP

For a band that seem to have been unfortunately tagged with the moniker "new Goth" whatever that's supposed to mean, they're a far more curious proposition than merely retreading old paths laid out around London's Batcave venue thirty years ago. A mesmerising entity in the flesh, debut long player 'Violet Cries' further illustrated Esben And The Witch as a complex, unconventional outfit operating outside of any pre-designed genre defined box.

Furthermore, their awkward and uncompromising style probably owes more to the prototype industrial sounds of Diamanda Galas or Xymox than any pre-ordained notion of black clad youths clutching the works of Brad Stoker in one hand and a crucifix in the other.

Nevertheless, be it coincidentally or otherwise, their latest release has a timely air about it, coming precisely seven days after Halloween. However, what's more striking about the 'Hexagons' EP is the audacious way Esben And The Witch allow each of the six pieces contained within to build up gradually like a mini-epic television drama. Although based on 'Hexagons IV', the brooding bass-heavy midpoint of 'Violet Cries' dramatic collection of mood swings, its stripped down beauty to a simplistic piano ballad amidst a halo of crashing percussion works implicitly here, not least in the way Rachael Davies ethereal vocal rises out of the ether to its forefront.

Prior to that, 'Hexagons I (The Fall)' - each piece here has its own subtitle befitting of its status on the record - introduces the EP with a gentle acoustic strum, Davies' voice not too dissimilar to that of All About Eve's Julianne Regan. The looped guitars omnipresent throughout 'Hexigons II (The Flight)' create an atmosphere suited to a hypnotic lullaby, Davies mostly illegible lyrics reaching operatic levels by its climax.

'Hexagons III (The Surge)' enhances the band's panache for creating music with a thought-provoking intensity, again using layered vocal effects to bolster the wall of sound Fisher and fellow musical accomplice Daniel Copeman orchestrate magnificently throughout. The aforementioned 'Hexagons IV (The Still)' following suit, the score-like ambivalence of 'Hexagons V (The Cast)' brings up the rear before the instrumental-only finale, 'Hexagons VI (The Thaw)', brings proceedings to a subtle close.

Although occasionally making for uneasy listening, 'Hexagons' brims with an ambition sadly lacking in many of their peers at this present moment in time, and while striving for perfection can often be a somewhat meticulous task, Esben And The Witch ooze determination by the bucket load. Prepare for a rocky, if intermittently brittle ride.


Dom Gourlay

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