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Take a moment to look at the cover of the new Esben and the Witch album. A solitary figure in silhouette, soft early morning light filtering through the trees. An expansive landscape; the raw, awesome might of nature; a new beginning. That single image conveys so many different ideas, all of them relevant to A New Nature, the third record from the Brighton trio, which sees them strip their sound back to basics.

The album opens with a single, clean guitar, a small amount of reverberation applied to give a sense of space - not cavernous, but roomy. Much like the light on the cover, it's a soft, warming riff meandering for two minutes before it's interrupted by crashing, militaristic drums and a thunderous bass. Another minute and any sense of calm has been removed by an oppressive, rattling bass that powers forward, smashing back anything in its way. As an album opener this is unlike anything we've ever seen from this band before.

It's a supreme display of power from the trio, showcasing the album's direction perfectly. Out go the electronic drums, in comes a rawer sound closer to that of a live performance. Daniel Copeman's drumming is more powerful than ever, whilst Rachel Davies voice soars over the surrounding noise like she's announcing the end of the world. Whilst the songs themselves have been stripped back to the essence of the three piece (drums, bass, guitar and vocals being the focus), A New Nature, is far more expansive with tracks less rigidly structured, some even eking out to 10 minutes and beyond.

'Jungle', the longest track on A New Nature, is the album's centrepiece. Opening with an ominous kick drum pound and a guitar riff that gradually intensifies it works its way towards a triumphant finale of horns. Thomas Fisher's guitar, which feels semi-improvised at times, is intricate, yet threatening. Combined with Davies' bass, there's a sense that at any moment the song could burst forth into unknown territory. It does just that, breaking into violent power chords and frenzied tremolo picking.

When everything subsides about halfway through, there's a moment where you think it might be over and then come those horns. Mournful at first, with atmospheric noise in the background. Then the guitar re-enters. A bright, clean riff, and an uplift in the brass, it's as though the smoke and debris has cleared and optimism has returned. Copeman's rolling drums are less oppressive, there's an energy that builds and Davies sings of a woman overcoming capture. Her lyrics, which describe the woman running through a forest before becoming entrapped by nature and eventually freeing herself, is hugely evocative. Coupled with the backing it results in a thrilling moment that perfectly captures the excitement and energy of their live performance.

It's followed by 'Those Dreadful Hammers' which opens with Davies singing a cappella. It's an effective way of separating this track from 'Jungle' and allows a moment of calm before the guitar, bass and drums burst in unannounced. Despite the opening, this is not a track that messes around, rather it cuts straight to the conclusion, to the death rattle that'll surely soundtrack the end of the world. The song ends minutes later in a slow waltz of brutal feedback.

A New Nature manages to walk the gulf between noise and subtlety and emerge unscathed. Compared to some tracks on the album 'Wooden Star' is one of the more subdued moments, featuring a soft, shuffling drum beat and a beautiful guitar riff for most of the track's running time. Davies' voice gets more chance to shine as well, featuring throughout the entirety of the song. By trying to capture the impression of a live performance on a studio album, Davies' voice really comes into its own. It shows just how under appreciated she is as a vocalist, but the few flaws that come through also help to humanise the record, which sometimes threatens to become a little too aggressive.

Lyrically the band remain complex, with tracks like 'No Dog' taking inspiration from literature, Davies was reading Call of the Wild whilst writing the track. The imagery throughout retains ideas of nature and reflect the primal quality of the music. 'No Dog' in particular, which features a howl of guitar feedback over a driving salvo of bass and guitar, contains lyrics referencing "the bristling of fur", whilst 'Jungle's oppressor comes in the form of trees which pin the protagonist down. Interestingly, once freed the singer refers to herself as "the butcher", suggesting ideas of mankind marked as the ultimate destroyer in nature.

Overall, A New Nature is Esben and the Witch's most thoughtful, yet physical record yet. It's expansive and free, without feeling padded or meandering, and it successfully balances devastating noise, with moments of wondrous beauty. It's a tremendous record, that simply, and effectively puts their contemporaries to shame.

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