Release Date: Sep 9, 2014
Record label: Nostromo
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It’s always strange to watch the development of a band from their first release onwards. Looking back to 2009, and remembering the skeletal foundations Esben and The Witch built on debut EP 33, it’s not only remarkable to see where they've ended up but also rather surprising. This was a band who, on their early releases, used frailty as their greatest strength.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Take a moment to look at the cover of the new Esben and the Witch album. A solitary figure in silhouette, soft early morning light filtering through the trees. An expansive landscape; the raw, awesome might of nature; a new beginning. That single ….
Striking out, sans label safety net, is always a risk. It offers the jackpot of complete creative control, the satisfaction of solo success and proud independence, but it’s still a heckuva chance to take. For their third LP, Brighton’s post-rock aficionados Esben and the Witch rolled those dice/span that wheel/placed that bet/gambling metaphors.
The third studio album and first release on the Brighton, England-based group's own Nostromo label, A New Nature finds Esben & the Witch refining their signature blend of doom folk and gothic alt-rock, allowing famed audio distiller Steve Albini to strip away the layers of caustic atmosphere and present the trio in its rawest form. With Albini aboard, the PJ Harvey-fronting-Slint comparisons are sure to fly (they are also pretty spot on), but Thomas Fisher, Daniel Copeman, and Rachel Davies draw from a much deeper and darker well. Like their closest regional contemporaries, Wolf People, the trio's hard rock and doom metal tendencies are tempered by a fascination with English folk, but while the former lean harder toward the early Fairport Convention side of things, Esben & the Witch seem drawn to the feral psych-folk of Comus.
According to legend, a young PJ Harvey once wrote to post-rock pioneers Slint to ask if she could be their singer. If the collaboration had come off, it might have sounded like this third album of windswept epics from gothic Brighton trio Esben And The Witch. Thomas Fisher’s sparse, creeping guitar thrashes gloomily from delicate to deafening throughout ‘A New Nature’, while vocalist Rachel Davies makes for a commanding narrator, especially on the ghoulish intro to ‘Those Dreadful Hammers’.
"Press Heavenwards" opens A New Nature with three minutes of beautifully spacious and dark atmospherics before the meat of the song even begins; this slow burn intro echoes Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" more than anything we've heard heretofore from this post-punk trio. (Once it kicks it up, though, the song's all Suicide '77.) Recorded live by Steve Albini, A New Nature is a somber march. Gone are the drum machines that were a signature part of the band's early sound, replaced by live percussion which frees up singer/bassist Rachel Davies and Thomas Fisher's guitar to follow a looser, more exploratory route through the music.
At the tail end of 2010, nestled amongst the annual assemblage of tepid mediocrity that is the "BBC Sound Of" list, you may have spotted Brighton trio Esben And The Witch. Having previously generated a modest amount of blog buzz they were a dark glittering gem amongst this perennially depressing selection of fame hungry, industry approved quislings and rapacious, artistically compromised wannabes. It is difficult to gauge what effect, if any, appearing on such an insipid list had on Esben And The Witch's development.