Esben & the Witch

SXSW showcase reviews

Live Shots
Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Esben & the Witch

The Windish Agency House @ ND, Wednesday, March 16

There's nothing like standing within striking distance of lyrical lunacy to focus your evening. Brighton, UK, trio Esben & the Witch beguiled the thin but entranced ND audience by a cunning and crafty sonic slight of hand and howl. Singer Rachel Davies – disarmingly gamine and sporting a wild mane that would've made Lord Byron retitle "She Walks in Beauty" – fluctuates between the mad, the bad, and the deliciously dangerous. Opener "Marching Song" set the tone, with Davies, alternating with guitarist Daniel Copeman and keyboard/guitarist Thomas Fisher to pound a floor tom senseless, whip-poor-will-trilled the sound of impure rage-ache. Tribal, even primordial single "Skeleton Swoon" shrieked like Siouxsie Sioux and a banshee crashing Nick Cave's birthday party deep in the woods. This wasn't goth, nor was it – despite the spastically minimalist stage lighting – some kindred spirit to retro-dance darkwave. Call it gloom-pop or call it nightmares off wax. Really, the only question is: When shall these three meet again? In thunder, in lightning, or in rain? Best bring along a black mackintosh and prepare for weather both foul and fair.

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