EP: Esben & the Witch – Marching Song

esbenEsben & the Witch hail from Brighton but are named after a Danish fairy tale about a young boy- an outsider in his own family, although he seems to be the most gifted and wise of his brothers. As in the story Esben & the Witch do not quite fit in; in this case they don’t quite fit into a musical category- but as with the Esben of the tale their lack of conformity is their strength.

Marching Song is the bands second EP and is 16 minutes long, despite being made up of only three tracks.

The title track ‘Marching Song’ is the first and arguably most accessible of the tracks. It opens with a wall of noise, distortion and a pulsating beat which recedes as soon as the vocal begins. From that point forwards the song builds as the lyrics grow more manic and the singer Rachel’s voice fills with anger. Lyrically this song is the most developed on the EP and the line about battling with your minds retorts stands out particularly.

The second song ‘Souvenirs’ is moody where ‘Marching Song’ is angry and contemplative where ‘Marching Song’ rages. The vocal sounds like it is being sung from a well and the instrumentation also suggests droplets of water falling to me. The lyrics of ‘Souvenirs’ — like elsewhere on the EP — are not always easy to decipher. The lead singer of the band has a very strong, clear and hypnotic voice which is especially apparent on this song; she will be compared to other contemporary and not so current female artists but deserves to be appreciated for her own sound.

‘Done Because We Are Too Menny’ is the final track on the EP and is over eight minutes long. The song begins initially without the bands usual wall of electronic sound- with a simpler and more traditional few bars- which shine out. When the electronics come they have impact and ‘Done Because We Are Too Menny’ becomes a kind of disturbing lullaby- asking the children to go to sleep, sounding like the song is coming from a dark forest- it has a mesmeric quality and will likely be widely sampled and possibly re-arranged in the future.

The Marching Song EP is filled with an enormous amount of ideas and musical experimentation. Esben & the Witch were clearly crying out to be set free to make an entire album where their music would have space and freedom- which they are now doing. As a stand- alone recording the EP is extremely cinematic  and haunting, it is beautiful but not necessarily in the traditional, delicate sense- it is strong, sometimes strange, defiant and complex music.