Album Review: Esben And the Witch – Wash the Sins Not Only the Face

by New Music Michael on January 29 2013

WashthesinsArtist: Esben And the Witch

Album: Wash the Sins Not Only the Face

Rating: 8.8 (WOW)

Release Date: January 22 2013

Label: Matador

This summer will mark three years that I’ve been writing this music blog. Obviously there’s a lot of music bloggers that have been at it a lot longer, but in that time I have yet to have any artist repeat in my Top Ten Albums of the Year lists. This album could easily see that streak come to a stop.

I first came to know Esben And the Witch while in South By Southwest in the spring of 2011. I didn’t know them from a hole in the ground at the time, but ended up watching their set (they performed as a duo at the time, though they’re officially a trio) in the back patio of some bar in between bands I did know. It was jaw-dropping, and I made a quick note to check them out when I got home. Theirs was one of a handful of albums I bought as a result of seeing bands at SXSW, and their recorded music not only captures their incredible energy live, but refines it perfectly. “Violet Cries” ended up at #3 on my 2011 best-of-list, and I continue to listen to it regularly, especially when I need to listen to something with a harder edge.

Now, Esben And the Witch, with their sophomore release – always a tricky bit of jungle to traipse through – have managed to retain the same gusto, the same lust for life, the same love of music and noise, and yet evolve just enough to make this album an intriguing, enrapturing, delight.

Extraordinary melodies are punctuated with crystal clarity, soft sounds give way to blistering drums and guitars, and Rachel Davies has one of those voices that you wish would sing you lullabies (or at least your two-month old son) every single night of the year. “When That Head Splits” is a perfect example of the former, a blissful yet surreal journey through a soft section that lulls you into a false sense of security, then blows you away with a frightful drum track. And “Deathwaltz”, well, it may well be my favorite track on the album, a five-minute electrosynth romp featuring Davies’ incredible voice. And that should tell you something, because it’s incredibly rare that any single on an album ends up being my favorite. “Despair”, the other single (just released in fact, I’ll include its video below), is an experimental noise ballad that will leave you as breathless as the vacuum of deep space.

This Brighton act has not only thrown down a killer album, but have definitely raised the bar for every other release that’s going to come across my desk this year.

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