Esben And The Witch - Wash The Sins Not Only The Face

A band at the peak of their powers
Esben And The Witch - Wash The Sins Not Only The Face

Moody, frenzied, claustrophobic and yet hugely melodic guitar music is a heady and inviting brew. The woozy guitar sounds of 2011’s ‘Violet Cries’ have been kicked up a gear and Rachel Davies’ vocals have come a long way, emerging Stipe-like from their previously buried state to truly occupy the band’s sound. Just like washing a car and suddenly remembering what it’s capable of looking like, the removal of the selfinflicted murkiness reveals a band at the peak of their powers.

The gorgeous swirling pop of ‘What That Head Splits’ would be being lauded in the tight jean wearing streets were it credited to Bat For Lashes, while ‘Despair’ twitches like a red-faced thwarted child working themselves up into a public scene provoking tantrum. Where their debut record ebbed and flowed with intermittent greatness, ‘Wash The Sins Not Only The Face’ slowly retreats from a grandiose, wall of sound opening, ‘Iceland Spar’, to the intense closer ‘Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of The Night’. The slow withdrawal of pace is carefully controlled, just like all  aspects of this meticulously crafted record,  designed to represent a journey deep into the dark of night.

Citing Sylvia Plath, Philip Pullman, T.S. Eliot and Salvador Dali as influences, dabbling with Eno’s fabled Oblique Strategies and describing themselves as “more focused, more confident”, everything about this album is bigger than what has gone before and reveals an energised band with a real belief in what they’re doing. Quite right too.

8/10

Words by GARETH JAMES

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