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Esben and the Witch + Guests

16/04/2013 By James McLarnon

Esben And The WitchThought Forms started the evening superbly. On record they came across as in thrall to the alt rock of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine with the occasional foray into something doomier. This meant their decision to open with the drone rock epic ‘Burn Me Clean‘ was a pleasant surprise, starting as it does from a pool of primordial ooze to a twin guitar scree and powerful drum conclusion. The middle section of the set was where the earlier named influences were on show, equally as adept at fast or low tempo or with male or female vocal. It appears the only rule with a Thought Forms track is it has to be noisy. The final piece was a second droney, downtuned workout that brought about rapturous applause from an already well-populated Sticky Mike’s.

Teeth Of The SeaTeeth of the Sea should already be better known. They’ve released three great records, including recently released and best of the bunch Master and are one of the most confident, visually arresting and sonically adventurous live bands around. Their set started with new album opener ‘Reaper’, a two parter starting in minimal techno territory before latching onto a mountainous groove in a mid- song about-turn. ‘You’re Mercury‘ was all skulking and moody before the familiar trumpet motif takes us through to a frenzied post rock conclusion, that featured outstanding work from guitarist Jimmy Martin. When future-kraut classic ‘A.C.R.O.N.Y.M’ arrived there was a worrying amount of dancing going on for a Sunday night. Closer “Responder” which is an absolute monster on record somehow managed to get larger live. It was a jaw-dropping conclusion somehow managing to simultaneously channel Neu! and Throbbing Gristle. The dancing reached epidemic levels.

Truthfully, before the show I was probably the least enthused about seeing Esben & The Witch. Live, they’ve always come across as something of a dichotomy; their records demonstrate great technical skill and songwriting, offset by hesitant live performances. They’ve really upped their game. Rachel Davies, who has always possessed a voice many an established star would be extremely jealous of, drove the songs along on both guitar and bass. Her urgent manner, short dark hair and all black outfit all seemed tomatch the group’s focused attitude. Thought FormsThis new streamlining was also evident with the guys, Daniel Copeland gives the drums a ferocious beating whilst Thomas Fischer’s noisy, yet intricate and atmospheric guitar work was the star of the new set up. The songs, always a strong point, improved as a result of the new direct approach. The opening ‘Marching Song‘ flew by, losing none of its essential drama.

Recent album cut ‘Deathwaltz sounds like nobody else out there at the moment all loud soaring guitars, with intricate vocal melody, whilst closer “Smashed To Pieces In The Still of The Night is aptly both song of the evening and a drumming masterclass. They were a taught, post punk power trio, I kid you not.

Esben & The Witch : Put It On presents
with Teeth Of The Sea and Thought Forms - 7:30pm Sun 13th Oct 2013 @ Sticky Mike's Frog Bar
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