“Not to say they’re in any way a throwback, but the intense fury these three modest humans work up reminds me of ’80s/’90s bands who were desperate to match savvy rock songwriting with scary, theatrical emotion and intensity without turning it into noise punk or cabaret shtick. They walk a line, evoking folklore and fairy tales and witchery, swelling to a climax that’s hypnotic but never quite reveals itself.” — SPIN
Dark noise pop Esben and the Witch are set to release their debut album, Violet Cries. Their intense sound has been raved about ever since they released their 3 EP. You can check out their “Warpath” mp3 here, and their new music video for “Marching Song” below.
It’s not too often that the word “subtle” can be used when describing a noise rock band, but “subtle” is exactly what went through my head while listening to Weekend’s Slumberland debut-LP, Sports. The San Francisco trio is quickly gaining popularity, after a year of touring with such bands as Japandroids and A Place To Bury Strangers. The ten song collection of Sports excels in finding nuance within their wall of sound. Although all of the typical elements of noise rock are present—reverb guitars, droning vocals, hammering percussion, and washes of ambient and static sound—Weekend chooses not to use all of these elements continuously.
“Coma Summer” and “Youth Haunts” open the album with the kind of frenetic energy Weekend is gaining notoriety for in their live act, throwing rhythm and guitars at the listener in a frenetic, although not completely aggressive way. Creating this maelstrom of sound over two tracks gives Weekend the room to back off on the volume later on, and become more introspective and lyrical in the middle of the disc. “Monday Morning” is emblematic of exactly what the title states; a slower guitar beat combines with layers of vocals, making a dark snapshot of a grey start to the work week—full of longing (or even regret) for the lost reverie of the weekend. And although snippets of lyrics can be heard in tracks like “Age Class,” where lead singer Shaun Darkin repeatedly sobs “There’s something in our blood,” Sports is not an album that propels its personal message through words. Atmosphere is the main language of the music at hand, and Weekend takes you through incredibly fluid changes in texture throughout the album, making the music feel like a mix of both a summer trip to the beach and the soundtrack of your worst nightmare. The music is both insular and exposed, and all kinds of beautiful.
Many critics are making the obvious comparisons between Weekend and other post-punk outfits: My Bloody Valentine, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, and The Jesus & Mary Chain. Despite having very credible similarities, I couldn’t help thinking of more recent influences, like Liars’ self-titled album, and the earliest work of Sigur Rós, Von, while listening to Sports. These groups, like Weekend, craft music of sweeping crescendo and silences that coax the ear, rather than beating it into submission. Their diversity of sound ultimately makes for a more haunting and satisfying work. At best, Weekend are helping to pave the way to producing craftier and more nuanced versions of the popular post-punk sound, and at worst, they have just made a really, really good album.