Esben And The Witch – Wash The Sins Not Only The Face

Esben and the Witch open their second album with a mille feuille of bleeding guitars, bastard drums and delicate, translucent vocals that withstand a right pummelling in the eye of the storm. ‘Iceland Spur’ makes a mockery of the hullaballoo given over to My Bloody Valentines’ return. Who gives a shit about hoary old shoegaze relics dusting off their reverb pedal when the next generation is already off and running with the mantle?

As it is, ‘Iceland Spur’ is a bit of a red herring. Although Rachel Davies’ voice is given the MBV treatment i.e. suspended like a fine mist over an angry sea, the album is less Ride more Mogwai. Less Lush, more Cocteau Twins. While that may sound like a melt-in-mouth proposition, Wash the Sins is too even-tempered to harness the emotional sock-in-the-jaw that union would surely deliver.

Although there is a general sense of gloom provided by the album’s tall edifices and anxiety-ridden effects, the band under delivers on the promise of its name (taken from a bloody, vengeful Danish fairy tale). A spooky guitar line stalks ‘Deathwaltz’ and ‘Despair’’s incessant clanging is unsettling enough, but the production compresses contrasting textures and stymies a narrative that’s crying out for its points of tension to be treated with a bit more guts and brawn. Esben and the Witch aim for a chilling, gothic sensibility but end up with something decidedly more PG rated.