Are you ready? Because A New Nature, the new album by the Brighton based trio Esben and the Witch is a monumental body of work, which is sure to get a solid position amongst your favorite albums of the year. Esben and the Witch are a British rock band formed in Brighton in 2008 and consists of Rachel Davies (vocals, bass, percussion), Thomas Fisher (guitar), and Daniel Copeman (drums, electronics). In case their name reminds you of the the Danish fairytale “Esben and the Witch”, you would be right, it comes exactly from it.
Esben and the Witch debuted with 2011’s Violet Cries and the new album arrives just one year after Wash The Sins Not Only The Face. Listening to these three records in a row you’ll notice that since their debut the band has kept on experimenting and pushing the envelope until landing to their current sound featured A New Nature. It is an eerily gorgeous album. After the first listen of the new record it’s really remarkable to see where they’ve ended up. For this album the trio recruited Steve Albini for the recording and, considering the outcome, this collaboration was just perfect.
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The first thing I noticed about A New Nature was the cover artwork that represents the silhouette of a solitary figure immersed in a soft early morning light. That sense of space and the idea of the beginning of a new day fits perfectly with the concept of A New Nature. The expansive landscape of the cover art reflects the space of the record’s sonic landscape.
The trio open their latest work with “Press Heavenwards” the start is soft and vibrating at the same time. In less than one minute you are immersed into the breathtaking atmosphere of A New Nature. There a sort of tension, a beautiful tension, that rises the listener’s expectations. It’s evident that the band didn’t waste one second and decided to burn from the beginning. “No Dog” and “Jungle” are the songs where this beautiful album becomes stellar. “No Dog”, previously released on a split LP with Thought Forms earlier this year, is the track that sets the tone for the whole record. The droning atmosphere, the folk percussions, the thunderous drums and the impassioned vocals are simply gorgeous. Davies’ declaration that “I am no dog, I am a wolf” is the leitmotif of the song and has in it a strong sense of domination. “No Dog” dissolves into “Jungle”, (the longest track on the album) which I consider one of the best songs of the year. It has a dark-punk style and it starts with a soft kick drum before gradually building up till you find yourself wrapped in a threatening yet triumphant wall of sound. Fourteen minutes of pure beauty through which Esben and the Wich demonstrate that they are masters of their game.
“Those Dreadful Hammers’ is the calm after the storm and it sets the tone of the last act of the album. It is softer than the previous songs, but it doesn’t miss the drum beats and beautiful guitar riffs that keep you on the move. A New Nature is simply a gorgeous album: It’s expansive and free , it’s breathtaking and captivating. Play it loud!