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Ebsen and the Witch: Violet Cries (Matador) 

As a study in atmospherics, Violet Cries works. On "Hexagons IV," a spectral piano riff leads into stormy cymbal crashes. The band creates narrative through mood and atmosphere. "Hexagons IV" sounds like a doomed seafarer's tale, using the texture of sound to describe haunted islands, violent waves, sinking galleons. Rachel Davies' moody siren vocals are unintelligible. Stray phrases cut through the murk: "Just close your eyes," she repeats before the crescendo. They title another song "Marine Fields Glow." It's all anachronistic, where macabre Danish children's stories from another century become thundering, mechanized soundscapes.

The risk here is in creating gothic tedium, something the band doesn't wholly avoid. The point's been made by the album's midpoint, "Chorea," one of the noisiest tracks. "Eumenides" is a bore if dark fairy posturing isn't your thing (though when the song turns to dark fairy techno at the end, it's got a sort of camp gloriousness).

On "Marching Song," Davies' voice is at the forefront. The lyrics hint at a pre-industrial battlefield scene. "Your veins are my trenches," Davies sings, a silly metaphor that muddies the moment with junkie imagery. The band works best when she's a vocal presence buried under the music; as a lyricist she's workmanlike at best. The music's the better storyteller on "Marching Song," conjuring a battalion's ominous descent into the underworld. Words don't mean as much here. The band's all the better for it.

More by Sean Bottai

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