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Esben And The Witch / Moses Gold – The Soup Kitchen, Manchester 31st Aug 2012

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Esben And The Witch were unpretentious but mighty last night in the deconstructed-dingy surroundings of Manchester’s Soup Kitchen, leaving a huge lasting impression.

The band have been around since 2008, have had one proper album out, Violet Cries, and then more recently (but still a good nine months ago) their ‘Hexagons’ EP, the latter in reality one long linked piece, which didn’t get a look in tonight, meaning that everything was either fairly old or very new indeed.

In one of those managements of mis-timing, some Canadian girl called Grimes had pitched up the same night and set up camp in a rival venue. That’s not to say there was no crowd for Esben, far from it, the Soup Kitchen basement was well packed, but it meant that the drifting voters, the casually curious, were queuing up elsewhere to purchase Grimes pussy rings. Leave them to it, we were keeping the good stuff to ourselves.

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(Esben And The Witch – scroll down for full picture set)

It suited Esben And The Witch too – we chatted afterwards, as they were loading out, and they professed themselves more than happy with how it had gone; the opportunity to work out new songs, some of them getting played for only the first or second time tonight, in front of a relaxed and supportive audience. As they said, it was good to do so without the pressure of promoting a new release.

And that’s what we got – eight songs, of which only three were familiar from their back-catalogue (Marching Song, Lucia and Eumenides). They opened with ‘Iceland Spar’, and were compelling from the off. I’m familiar enough with EATW on record, but up close and personal it was fascinatingly complex. Particularly on the new material, I could only think it was akin to something first written as dramatically orchestral, next dropped over some experimental chopped up jazz time signatures, and finally played at eye bulging MBV intensity.

To complete the mood, there really should have been ice – proper stuff, as in bergs, not as in machines – and the tang of charred metal coming from afar. It was loud, it was as intellectually engaging as it was enjoyable, and I stood there with my jaw gaping. It’s fair to say I’m now looking ahead with more than average enthusiasm for the new songs to coalesce into a record.

Support was Moses Gold, playing his /their debut gig and demonstrating exactly what makes random gig going so worthwhile. I’m not sure if they always intend to be a two piece or if tonight was a one off collaboration with Stay+ on programming / keys, but I’ve never seen two musicians so separate and yet so joined. Stay+ made a mockery of most electro synth merchants with his ability to casually call down vast and rolling expanses of doom, while man of the hour, the erstwhile Christian AIDs singer who might also be known as Phill Young, terrified the audience by advancing on them from the stage, picking on them one at time to sing intensely and at length into their faces. He bled it all out on the floor, whether for himself or us doesn’t really matter.
Spend five or ten minutes digging, and it’s clear that Moses Gold like to throw down the odd challenge. We’re up for it, and we need to find out more, this is clearly the start of something.

Esben And The Witch photo set

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Moses Gold

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.