The modern blog driven music scene seems bent on creating micro-genres that last as long as they take to gain a following. I don’t want this to become a genre rant, but Witch House was definitely a big thing early this year but has already dissipated into a mere vague link between some more bands with an eerie world view who sit somewhere between electronic and guitar-based music. That said, if there was a Witch House sound, Esben And The Witch were it. This year’s Violet Cries was full of walls of distortion, pulsating 808-kicks and huge vocals from the darker side of Florence Welch’s soul. And now to close the year they are back with a six track, six part EP; Each track is named Hexagons but is then distinguished with a subtitle.
Opener ‘Hexagons I (The Fall)’ brings in the acoustic guitar to the usual laments; it is both both beautiful and jarring with feedback being used almost like whale song. From this melancholic beginning we move much nearer to their previous efforts; ‘The Flight’ sounds like a bad Thursday for the xx, with the edges smoothed by sense of hopelessness. The next two movements, which blend into one cohesion, retreat to being piano driven, highly echoed affairs and are the stronger for it – on Violet Cries the keys-based tunes always felt the most secure and grounded, and it’s no different here.
This EP has a much more theatrical feel to it, as if we are being present a play for the modern feeling of isolation, hopelessness and disconnection that technology and the government’s reforms seeming be evoking in an ever growing swathe of today’s youth. This could be the soundtrack to a 22-year old skinny-jean-wearing graduate queueing for their dole money, despairing. To reflect this new dramatic aesthetic the band streamed performances of the EP multiple times a day, for a six day run, live from a period cinema in their home town of Brighton. To view it you had to book in for a performance and actively sit down and watch, bringing a piece of classic stage performance to the online generation.
These 6 tracks come in at less than 20 minutes but you don’t feel let down, or even short changed, but I am left feeling this movement-based extended idea structure doesn’t quite suite Esben & Co.’s sound and method. The fades in and out on most of the track separate them from each other and the invariably mid-to-low tempo leaves the listener a little lathargic by the (anti-)climax.
All of these tracks are luscious, dark and enveloping like an eerie dream, but I feel if these six track had been separated of the 6-part intention and included in an album with some other track written over a longer period of time, this could have been a stunning second album hot on the heels of the last, and ready for the summer’s festival run. However, what we’re left with is in itself very enjoyable and well put together, but limited by its own concept, as often ends up the case.
Released on 7th November 2011 by Matador Records