The ceiling seems to be leaking. This is a bit troubling, given that we’re in a club located beneath Charing Cross station, but I’ve moved three times and still the drips keep coming. Most seem to be landing in my drink, clouding the amber a dirty grey: several are making their way slowly down my face.
Really, though, these seem appropriate conditions for watching Esben and the Witch. Theirs is a sound that summons the dark, the murk of the night and the wrath of a storm. More so now, since guitarist Daniel Copeman has started adding drums as well, addressing what was always Esben’s key issue with their live shows: their reliance upon tape for far too much of their impact. Nearly two years on from the general underwhelming of their debut album the Brighton three-piece seem invigoured and combative, the likes of Marching Song reworked and extended into punchier, substantially more kinetic tracks.
They’ve a tendency to blur, however, the thirty minutes of their set becoming a sludge of minor keys and bleak arpeggios drawn out by a touch too much emphasis upon prescription noise. It’s still an alluring spell that Esben craft, but rather a numbing one as well, like a horror movie with the plot writ large and the jumps all pared away.
It’s far harder to assign the headliners an easy genre label: Errors aren’t really like anything else. Post Rock has long since become an utter misnomer for whatever it is the three-piece do, their songs a dichotomous meld of dancefloor lure and synth-led solipsism: there’s a Blade Runner melancholy to their bruised electro, the sound of a sentient machine expiring in the neon rain. Again, these environs are well-suited, the Victorian arches and the metallic ducts: the balloons, carried over the heads of the crowd by waves of bass and taps of hands, maybe less so.
The setlist is surprisingly difficult to recall. Like the support act Errors’ songs begin to mesh partway in, the gaps between mere pauses in the narrative, an advertisement break for beards and Scottish accents. Tusk was in there somewhere, as was Magna Encarta, and Pleasure Palaces with its ever-brilliance. New EP highpoint Relics appeared at some point, Edinburgh band Magic Eye’s Bek Oliva lending the vocal elements an ethereal quality amidst the strafing keys and reverbed drums.
But the individual tracks aren’t the point. Theirs is an envelop of atmosphere and mood, a commingling of anime vibrancy and future-noir decay. Sure, it’s danceable, in an erratic somebody help him way, but it’s more than that: this is club music that actually has some kind of heart. And as the house lights come up and Calvin Harris begins to churn between the arches, that seems all the more significant.