Haunting and spellbinding songs  in a basement as it draws close to midnight.   The Brighton trio’s band name acts like a book title, alluring to its contents, which stray uncompromisingly away from anything mainstream. Grimes are playing a sell-out gig at The Ritz tonight across town, and so I assume Esben and The Witch have been given a late set time in the hope that some punters will attempt to catch both.

This basement venue is dark and raw enough to suit the mood of the band’s music. A happy medium between the Soup Kitchen and St. Philips Church in Salford, where I saw the band play 16 months ago, would in my mind be an idyllic setting. The pounding drums and tortured vocals, along with relentless guitar chords and synths build and release in dramatic, cinematic fashion. Passers-by may well creep down the stairs out of curiosity, like horror film protagonists, in search of what’s lurking in the dark.

‘Marching Song’ sets the pace after an instrumental intro, followed by various parts from the ‘Hexagons’ EP and songs that they are apparently being played live for only the second time. All flow together effortlessly. After creating a confusing, chaotic and suffocating backdrop, they ease into a catchy hook and burst of frenetic energy as singer Rachel Davies pounds floor toms from a standing position. Thomas Fisher hides behind his beard and quietly goes about his business – he and Daniel Copeman switch between guitar and electronics while bathed in red light and the occasional camera flash.

They are certainly some form of ‘goth’, but no bands immediately spring to mind as to make a comparison… it would be best to consider mental images instead, like the ones on their website, for example.

The weird and wonderful way in which Esben and The Witch are going about their business exposes them as true artists, seemingly channeling a self-written play from inside their collective minds, out through to the audience via musical instruments. The intriguing plot is proving to be a real page turner – the experience leaves you with a sense that you have been emotionally moved in some way. Notably impressive and culturally-rich.

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.