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Live Review: Esben And The Witch, Deaf Institute, Manchester

Thursday, November 11

Phot: Magnus Alke/NME
Standing behind a battered-looking floor tom, Esben And The Witch’s frontlady Rachel Davies needs to finish having a moment before any sort of singing can commence. Side on, she’s rocking back and forth, her long, brunette locks swaying under an extreme amount of dry ice as if starring in some other-worldly shampoo ad.

She could be a catatonic Native American, contacting a spirit from beyond the smoke in a ceremonial bollocking. The words to ‘Argyria’ bellow from her tiny frame, summoning our attention as though she’s been doing so for centuries. Pounding, transient blasts on pulped drum skins entwine through a maze of sounds akin to Florence Welch fronting an operatic Indian Jewellery during an ’80s goth-pop explosion. Guitarists Tom Fisher and Dan Copeman build the strongest of platforms for Davies during ‘Battlecry’ which, in all its post-stoned intelligence, is quite ravishing.

“Be quiet!” our seducer Davies demands on set finale ‘Eumenides’. Ever commanding, she herself gets louder and louder until this spookiest of fairytale endings becomes an edge-of-seat, semi-acoustic techno trance. There’s body convulsions, making their silhouettes look like this is some kind of ritual occurring. A stage set of glowing skulls and street lanterns wrestle with our imagination against a rapidly increasing joy wrought from doomy sounds.

The Brighton trio may not be the easiest listen for mainstream audiences, but with this radical amount of stage presence and an all-knowing artistic accuracy, they’re certainly welcome to break a tom or two around us.

Kelly Murray

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