Named for a Dutch fairy tale, Brighton trio Esben and the Witch create the exact kind of sinister, enchanted atmosphere you'd expect from a band with such a moniker. Though the dark, mesmeric nature of their music is often spellbinding, Esben have a tendency to drag things out and wander off on tangents, making patience a crucial factor when listening to Violet Cries.
As the ominous tones of opener 'Argyria' unfurl and eventually dissipate to give way to the pounding beat of 'Marching Song' things look extremely promising for Esben and the Witch, instantly distinctive and intriguing, in fact. It's likely it's this sort of immediacy that earned the band a place on the BBC's Sound of 2011 longlist... If only it could be sustained.
Tendering the same sort of ambitious gothica we've heard from Zola Jesus, Rachel Davies' voice has a much more vulnerable, unstable quality, used to her best advantage among sweet yet spine-chilling harmonies on the sombre, low-key 'Marine Fields Glow'.
The trio excel when it comes to building unsettling, unearthly soundscapes and their powerful climaxes are almost as compelling, yet they often take too long to get to the point, temporarily losing your attention in the process. While it passes through a number of segments of varying success, six minute 'Eumenides' often loses the run of itself, casting off notions of melody in favour of dissonant crashing noises. Worse, closer 'Swans' is purposely out of key, almost as if the voice and backing track were never meant to be put together, until it finally comes together with some thoroughly creepy harmonies.
Despite its often gratuitous digressions, there's something about Violet Cries' spooky twists and turns that is strangely captivating. With a little more focus and self-restraint, Esben and the Witch could go a long way.