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A Magazine for Sheffield

Wash The Suns Not Only The Face

There seems to be a healthy shoegaze and goth scene maturing in the US, with the likes of Cold Cave, Whirr and Anne spearheading the movement. With the imminent release of a new My Bloody Valentine album, it's a little disheartening that very few bands over here in Blighty seem to be taking influence from the style.

Esben and the Witch are our best bets. Wash The Sins Not Only The Face is their second full-length album and their first for Matador, a label notable for releasing the likes of Pavement, Mogwai and The Fall.

Album opener 'Iceland Spar' begins with a chaotic furore of delayed guitar and eerie background noise before everything calms down as the vocals enter. In comparison to other bands in the genre, Rachel Davies' vocals are much more coherent and melodic. The play between chaotic noise and serene verses repeats a few more times and the song fades out.

Second track 'Slow Wave' is a complete contrast to its predecessor. Mid-tempo melodies and almost math-rock riffs collide throughout. There's much more of a progressive element here, although the song has much more of a traditional structure.

As the album progresses, an element of folk-noir becomes more and more apparent. 'Shimmering' sounds like it could be taken right out of Death In June's back catalogue. It's eerie, primeval and haunting. The drums are much more straightforward, to the beat of a neanderthal.

There's a continuing feeling of melancholy throughout the album. Gloomy songs stooped in strain. The greatest thing about it is that it isn't just a collection of songs. Everything is carefully placed so that tracks run into each other perfectly. Nothing runs on for too long and the energy is constantly changing.

The album finishes with 7-minute banger 'Smashed To Pieces Is The Still Of The Night'. Beginning with minimalist synths, the song is constantly building until it reaches a crescendo of noise as a heavily distorted bass sees the album out and fades in to a masque of silence.

Esben And The Witch might not be the most original band at first glance but they're definitely something different. Despite playing songs in a genre that was arguably first established over 30 years ago, they bring something new and something interesting where most bands are shoddy replicas of the originals.