Hold Sacred by Esben and the WitchRelease date: May 12, 2023
Label: Nostromo Records
Launching back in 2008, Brighton’s own Esben and the Witch have been hypnotising listeners with their haunting and sonic arrangements that they’ve unleashed for 15 years. With five albums in the can from 2011 to 2018, their music has been featured in TV shows such as Beavis and Butt-head, Ringer, movie trailers, the eighth season of Waterloo Road, and the British Comedy-Teen drama, Skins.
The trio consists of Rachel Davies, Daniel Copeman, and Thomas Fisher. And while I’m very new to the band’s music, their latest album, Hold Sacred, is like a burning candle that will never go out. Four years in the making, the trio recorded the album in a hot mosquito summer in the Villa outside of Rome.
With no pressures, Esben decided to take it easy and let the musical aspiration take its hand to embark in the next chapter of the band’s story. They would come up with rough ideas and what the genesis for the Hold Sacred sessions would come to be.
And it’s like looking through the passages of time, and the shadows of death with an aspect of surrealism, somber, ominous arrangements, angelic vocals, and a post-rock environment that have come to life in front of our very eyes. What I love about the new album is that there isn’t any live drums on here.
So for Copeman, he uses his own programming to create these mysterious wonders that is filled throughout the entire structure. Listening to ‘The Depths’, ‘Fear Not’, and ‘Silence, 1801’ you can hear bits of Cat Power in Rachel’s voice as she takes us into the middle of a deserted mansion that has been frozen in time.
There’s something very Kubrick-esque about the scenery while Rachel and Fisher do a tour around the mansion, covered with dust, as her ghostly vocals sets up the past and present to come forth by bringing their spirits to life. But once ‘True Mirror’ starts kicking in with a heartbeat, going in rapid structures, I almost felt a little tug between fellow krautrockers NEU!, and the Violent Femmes that the Witch have tip their hats to.
Let me just say this, Esben and the Witch have done their homework very well by showing how much their influences is brought to the table during the sessions for Hold Sacred. The walk into the unknown on ‘In Ecstasy’ has the heat-levels going up as Rachel walks into the heart of Egypt, searching for the lost treasure with a post-punk atmosphere that has the essence of Joy Division thrown into the mix.
Meanwhile, ‘Petals of Ash’ becomes this melancholic closure as the trio are closing up shop whilst Rachel envisions the rain pouring down, this beautiful city. And what an ending it is. Hold Sacred is Esben’s consecrated releases for 2023. They have proven themselves to bring their stories to life in unbelievable results that’ll keep you replaying this album, more and more to see what you’re missing.
And what a way to spend the summer in the trio’s cottage as they serve more organic green tea that’ll make you have another refill.