Wash the Sound
Gothic post-rock outfit, Esben and the Witch, have returned with their second long-player, picking up right where their 2011 debut Violet Cries left off, but perhaps less dark in tone and more polished in overall sound. And while Wash the Sins Not Only the Face is not a perfect album, it will certainly appease those looking for an audio compliment to their Brothers Grimm collection.
The terse opener kicks the album off with a driving guitar line that appropriately simmers down to remind listeners that for Esben, Rachel Davies’ vocals take the stage front and center. Fans of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and other household names in the post-rock genre will find a lot to enjoy about the guitar work on this release. Thomas Fisher’s heavily echoed sound shines most on “Slow Wave,” a track reminiscent of some of Circa Survive’s most swirling melodies.
One of the standout tracks on the album is “When That Head Splits.” Pensive guitar establishes a strong sense of mood before Davies chimes in at about the minute and a half mark. Although some will find the vocals on the album a bit too similar to consistently entice, this is a track where Davies controls the setting with the most effect.
At its best moments, the album demonstrates a charming ability to carry listeners away from our tangible realm, transporting us to a dreamy world filled with castles and full moons. At its worst, fans of Warpaint will be mildly grateful for a placeholder, while they wait for the real deal.
Although their new sound comes off as a refined version of their debut, it’s hard to not imagine Davies directly commenting on Esben’s seemingly undecided identity when she wistfully croons, “Is that an answer or is this an echo?” on Wash the Sins’ penultimate cut. The track steps back from the gothic post-rock sensibility and forays into territory that seems dangerously similar to the path so successfully forged by The xx. “Smashed to Pieces in the Still of the Night” builds almost too slowly for the album to reach its banging climax.
There is something to be said about music that carries you away from reality, but this effect can be easily likened to that of the double-edged sword. Wash the Sins will best serve those who are in need for a good escape, but the problem with this release is that it never demands your full attention. Esben’s dreamy ambiance might transport you to a fantastical world, but it’s not likely that this band will maintain your intrigue.