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The first time I heard anything by The Wytches was last spring, when the trio released the video for 'Digsaw' and announced the single 'Beehive Queen/Crying Clown'; having listened to those three tracks again and again (and loved every second of them), I quickly realised why they sounded so familiar: they reminded me of my favourite Nirvana album (if it can actually be considered as a proper album), Incesticide, with the darkness and despair of Kristen Bell's voice serving as the perfect match to the exotic arabic solos that paint every track purple and black, and where every single layer of sound is absolutely necessary.

The Wytches' music is, in some ways, the Beach Boys' evil twin: slightly surf-oriented, it consists of tales that don't always end as expected, and that inevitably transport us to a universe where the surfer often doesn't make his way back home. The twisted undertone of each track attacks us like a punch in the stomach, violating our brain like an attractive stranger to the point of making us feel guilty for allowing such intromission. Bell's visceral vocals are highly elastic and alternate between the "intense-but-cool" and the "I'm-in-terrible-agony" many times in the same track ('Burn Out The Bruise' is an excellent example of all the gradations achievable by Kristen Bell's voice).

The album is full of those tiny moments during which our guts - not our heart - skip a beat: the opening of 'Wire Frame Mattress', when the hi-hat opens and allows the rest of the band to join the minimal first ten seconds' intro is one of them - heavily competing with the vocals-only section in 'Crying Clown' (I actually held my breath on this one). And as 'Fragile Male' rips our flesh open and leaves us unashamedly naked and bleeding, softer tunes like 'Summer Again' and 'Weights and Ties' transport us to a weird prom dance in a small town, where the Prom Queen is dancing in the middle of an almost-emptied dance floor, proudly sporting a Carrie costume complete with the pig blood.

'Robe For Juda' throws us across the room like a tornado, leading the way for the slower-paced 'Crying Clown' and the album's untitled closer, a raw, despair-filled balled that ends this maddening sequence like a macabre lullaby.

Although Annabel Dream Reader contains many tracks that had already been shared by the band (Heavenly Recordings seem to have followed a path similar to the one chosen to promote Temples' debut LP, Sun Structures), the album oddly doesn't sound like a simple collection of songs. Actually, some of the previously-known tracks gain a different dimension within the context of the album, creating a cohesive and continuous experience that doesn't limit itself to being a mere sequence of tracks.

This is indeed an astonishing and absolutely infectious debut album: the urgency that each and every track is communicated with makes even the smallest detail surface as necessary and never misplaced. I can't wait to see where these guys go next.

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