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Esben & the Witch

Violet Cries (Matador)

Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., March 18, 2011

SXSW Records

Esben & the Witch

Violet Cries (Matador)

Now that the XX has splintered, eyes are on this British trio to take up the mantle of spookiest kids. The group even nabbed the same producer as the XX for its debut, replicating the witchy stretches of epic electro-psych. There's a little bit of early Siouxsie Sioux in Rachel Davies' voice, but there's also a bit too much restraint and not enough structure. Songs build up promisingly, then plateau where they should explode under Davies' phantom limb. There's a gothic archness to the whole thing, from song titles ("Argyria," "Eumenides") to its storybook pacing, but it fails to creep out like it could. Portishead was effective that way, because it made Beth Gibbons' lupine voice the predator in the fairy tale. Esben & the Witch has pretty frames, but not much of a big picture just yet. (Fri., 12mid, Latitude 30)

**.5

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