Violet Cries is the brooding debut from Matador’s Brighton-based Esben and the Witch; filled with ghostly reverberations, it’s sometimes hard to catch the big picture here. Those difficulties are quelled throughout, and it’s hard to complain about what’s on hand, though it may be tempting.
Some of the elements at play here mesh with startling verve: the guitar work culls from a variety of sources and blends them with ease, the percussion (electronic and otherwise) is driving and provides a solid base for the album’s build, the synthesizers fill the void without feeling aimless. It’s hard to be disappointed with Violet Cries — it’s incredible and evocative, but there’s still something missing. Rachel Davies’ vocals only add to the obfuscated approach that makes Violet Cries intimate, mysterious, even evocative, but it’s hard to find its heart.
At times, Violet Cries feels almost hollow, and at others, it’s sated with sound. It doesn’t always come off entirely well, and as Violet Cries draws in listeners then releases them in the same breath, it’s hard to find solid footing. As initially inviting as this is, it’s equally dismissive. This is difficult, strange music, but it packs a powerful punch.
But once a solid grasp is had, it’s hard to let go. Esben and the Witch clearly have a success on their hands, but it’s difficult to tell on what level. It’s not full of earworms, but it’s still unforgettable. The general malaise of Violet Cries is without rival, and the musical qualities are utterly engaging: This is an album that is on point from the first moment and every moment after. Violet Cries, one of the more anticipated debut albums of the year, isn’t a let down, but it’s a difficult album to get a grasp on.