Esben and the Witch – Wash The Sins Not Only The Face (2013)
Esben and the Witch are nominally a goth pop band from Brighton, UK, named after a Danish faerie tale. Forming in 2008, this is their second album.
Upon putting on this album, my immediate thoughts are towards goth music, but instead towards a related style: dream/noise pop. Opener, Iceland Spar starts with big fuzzy guitars, into dream-pop female vocals and back into fuzz, in a way so typified by The Jesus and Mary Chain, especially on Pyschocandy (1985).
Slow Wave further shows the dream-pop angle, jangly guitars and echoey dreamy vocals, while When That Head Splits is a more modern but darker pop outing, with a somewhat marching drum snare. I get a sense of incorporation of traditional folk at times on this album; not so much in the music, but in the vocal melodies. Deathwaltz is a denser number, which is starkly different to the following track, Yellow Wood, which is, for its most part, a sparse dreamscape. Despair is back to the noisier sound with a metallic twang to the guitars, and the album finishes strongly with the bleak Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of The Night.
Overall, it’s a dense hazy dreamy noise pop record. Not everything on here is to my taste, but I certainly enjoyed some of it. I’m afraid I don’t get the goth pop tag applied to them; sure, some of the song titles are a bit macabre, but this album is definitely more shoe-gaze and dream/noise pop, with jangly guitars contrasting fuzzy guitars and ethereal reverberating vocals.
Favourite tracks: When The Head Splits, Deathwaltz, Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of The Night
Spotify link: Esben and the Witch – Wash the Sins Not Only the Face