Esben and the Witch, Broken Water, Dead Leaf Echo

Jason Jackowiak

We've got a grip of 'gazers of various stripes this week on TSC, and believe us, these are some bands you are going to want to know about as 2010's calendar pages peel away. A couple of them are home-grown, while the other is one of the most promising UK exports we've heard in a lark's age. At any rate, if you like your sonics dense and brooding, then now's the time to pull the needle off your worn copy of This Mortal Coil's It'll End In Tears (veiled Patton Oswalt reference) and get down with what we've got going on here.

First up this week is soon-to-be-shit-hot Brighton trio Esben and the Witch and their “Lucia at the Precipice” b/w “They Use Smiles to Bury You” single on Too Pure. Eshewing any beach-y themes you might associate with their hometown (or so many current buzz bands), their sound is slow-burning and dolorous; like a Victorian notion of hell, creeping and haunted with a rapt intensity that's currently unmatched in any scene. Both cuts here are minimal and mechanical, yet retain a true sense of humanity that belies their darker intentions. “They Use Smiles to Bury You” is gorgeous, spectral balladry fit for the festivies to accompany the end of the world. Though this is technically part of the Too Pure Singles Club, some copies are available in limited quantities if you know where to dig.

From the ashes of the perpetually-underrated Sisters rises Olympia trio Broken Water and their self-released first single “Boyfriend Hole” b/w “Mother”. While they've been sprung from that grand tradition, their sound now has far more in common with London circa '91 than Seattle circa '93; their particular brand of blaring, pink-noise pop could easily be mistaken for a lost Creation Records gem or forgotten 4AD curio. “Mother” is curious in its wall-of-sound approach, and, at moments, sounds like Swervedriver attempting to smother The Ronnettes in their sleep. “Boyfriend Hole” is a more aggressive beast, with blasts of exploding-star guitars deftly serpentining around Kanako's lovely gossamer vocal turns. A host of distros still seem to have copies of this, so scoot on over to Fan Death or Parts Unknown if this sounds like the poison you seek.

Our final selection this week is from dour NYC trio Dead Leaf Echo and their “Half-Truth” b/w “Baby Eyes” on the Custom Made Music imprint. They refer to their sound as 'nouveau new wave' and they're not far off; it's a chiming, churning mix of Chaperhouse-like guitar grandeur with post-punk underpinnings a la The Cure. The A-Side floats by on cresting waves of shimmering, multi-phasing guitar, buoying a yearning-yet-melodic vocal and a restrained rhythm that never oversteps its bounds, leaving ample room for the tune to float amongst the pink clouds. On the flip, “Baby Eyes” is more upbeat, with a determined tempo, breathless vocals and photon guitar rave-ups that wouldn't have been out of place on Mezcal Head. Best to hit up the label direct if you'd like this for your next late night weepfest.

That's the end of our stroll down the dark end of the street, but fear not, we've got plenty more up our sleeve. So make sure to creep back on by for more cheap thrills next time on TSC.

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