Esben and the Witch: Guest Selector
The post-rock trio get to grips with the tracks behind their stunning latest LP
Brighton-formed, Berlin-based trio Esben and the Witch have made a career out of mapping the sonics of ethereal terrains, but few can match their otherworldly aura with such a heightened sense of menace. As their name suggests, their sound is thoroughly eldritch and drenched in a gothic mysticism that's entirely at odds with their south coast origins: music to soundtrack a spiritual crisis, and richly powerful with it.
Latest album Older Terrors is their most ambitious offering yet; an immersive four-song collection where no piece dips below the ten-minute mark. Here the band tell us about some of the tracks that influenced the record – a bewitching collection, all told.
Built To Spill – Velvet Waltz
[Perfect From Now On, 1997]
Thomas Fisher (guitar): "From an amazing album. I find all the lyrics mysterious and intriguing but when he sings, 'In a world that's not so bad' here, as the guitars swirl around the words, it really resonates. It feels somehow defiant and powerful and inspiring."
Swans – A Piece of the Sky
[The Seer, 2012]
TF: "Emerging from the fire and the drone comes this march towards the light. I've always found this song, lyrically and musically, to stir feelings of hope and optimism; the seemingly endless guitar progression picking me up and carrying me."
Talk Talk – The Rainbow / Eden
[Spirit of Eden, 1988]
TF: "I put these together as they seem utterly inseparable to me. The 'choruses', for want of a better word, feel like surges of light. The dynamics and space of this song are amazing, the way the drums emerge and then dissipate."
Alice Coltrane – Yamuna Tira Vihari
[Turiya Sings, 1982]
Rachel Davies (vocals, bass): "Like a warm bath to soothe aching bones. Throbbing analogue synths, reverb-drenched organs, shimming strings and – of course – Alice's divine mantra weaving throughout. Spiritual in the truest sense of the word."
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – Hang on to Each Other
[Horses in the Sky, 2005]
RD: "One of my favourite bands/collectives of all time. I remember seeing this live, cross-legged in front of the altar in a church in Brighton: incredible. A group of people off-mic, singing/warbling/crying, 'Hang on to each other, hang on to any fucking thing you love.' Beautiful."
Grouper – Alien Observer
[A I A : Alien Observer, 2011]
RD: "I adore everything Liz Harris does but this is the song I listen to to calm me down, to feel at peace. I find it so soothing, so beautiful; it's almost transcendent. 'Look into the night sky, look towards the big lights, looking out to be free.'"
Josef Van Wissem – To Lose Yourself Forever is Eternal Happiness
[When Shall This Bright Day Begin, 2016]
RD: "Another blissful song. I love how the picked guitar sparkles, like it's dancing with the ghostly voices that echo and swirl throughout like a lost choir. I think it has a lightness and an innocence to it that I find hope in."
Diane Cluck – Yr Million Sweetnesses
[Oh Vanille / Ova Nil, 2003]
RD: "Diane uses her voice in such an interesting way. Whilst I find a real sadness in this song, I find these lines always jump out at me, and I find them really uplifting: 'I have spent time with unspoiled birds, and generous sunshine that taught me doing nothing / And I do recall that my very best friends are the ones who left me empty and ready to be filled again.'"
Older Terrors is out now via Season of Mist. Esben and the Witch play Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 21 Feb