But Listen: 079: ESA – The Sea and The Silence

Barely any time seems to have passed since the last album, but with a change of label to Tympanik maybe moving on quickly was the best way. Either way, with an apparently growing fanbase and lots of positive press, another album as good as the previous two would hardly be a bad thing.


The Sea and The Silence
Label: Tympanik
Catalog#: TA018

Listen on: Spotify

And so it proves. Much like last time, things begin quietly. At least until a sample appears of a priest apparently completing communion, and an almost tribal rhythm arrives, with didgeridoo samples that means in some respects at least, opener Tasting Nails is channelling something of Aphex Twin‘s earlier work. The beauty of the way that this track is constructed is that it starts from minimal levels, and gradually adds layer by layer until the complete – and extraordinarily complicated sounding – rhythm is revealed. And at that moment, everything is stopped dead, leaving the original background noise to fade out, and flow nicely into Absolute Fury (In It’s Very Fabric), which this time strikes an ominous tone before the pounding beats start to build like a gathering storm on the horizon, and as the storm breaks, you can hear Jamie in the background, roaring his vocals as the storm rages around him.

There are no such clever tricks to begin It’s Hard To Sleep, In Hell, as the beats come first, and what sounds like heavily treated choirs fill the gaps, and this time Jamie’s vocals are so much clearer, although only the one repeated refrain. Despite the oppressive sound, the piano in the background, indeed the general darkness of it, there is a beauty in the calmer, beatless sections that help to punctuate this track.

Talking of beauty, the two-part title track that sprawls over fifteen minutes marks quite a departure. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore provides an initial backdrop to a (female) spoken-word piece detailing a dream involving the sea, and death, and this then, as Jamie’s voice offers a finality to the speech, the beats arrive and, at least for a while, normal service is resumed. Well, as normal as you get. The female vocals continue through the track, but mainly just detailing the title, with again a near tribal rhythm, although when the waves begin crashing around the beats later in the track it sounds awesome, and would perhaps make an interesting soundtrack on an iPod at night, by the sea. Even more extraordinary is the second part, where the beats disappear, leaving ghostly, wordless vocals and drones as if some ancient ritual is being performed, and then when you begin to think that this surely can’t go on for seven minutes, a tabla begins to fashion a slow-paced rhythm, and the ghostly vocals and some kind of horn begin to twist around one another as the tabla begins to gather pace. As it ends, the sound of a terrified, exhausted girl appears briefly, leaving a tense, astonishing finale to a quite breathtaking attempt at something different that I honestly can’t see many other artists in this sphere even daring to attempt.

Normal service is resumed, by the pulverising power of Dead Fucking Desire, with the really quite creepy sample of a female voice detailing that “Satan is ever ready to seduce us…with sensual delights!” (from The Devils) and both Jamie and a female vocal repeating a refrain involving the title, to awesome effect. It gets better, though, and perhaps even with more power – in Your Anger Is A Gift. No shit: in this case the anger is clearly channelled to make ever more visceral industrial music, and if this is what the anger and the fury can inspire…

Open To Me, Your Black And Bitter Heart‘s all-too-brief dark ambience seems to be intended as nothing more than an interlude, while Randomly Selected Drawbacks Of The Human Condition Pt.2 is yet another surprising diversion from the norm – an acoustic ballad of sorts, with a full set of female vocals onboard, although with a fair amount of electronic rhythms underpinning it. In some respects it reminds me of Swans, which is in no way bad a thing. Closing track The Devil Worships Me! is droning, dark ambience with yet more tribal beats that emerge from the murk (again with that Swans influence rearing it’s head). It doesn’t really go anywhere, but as a way to close this dark and claustrophobic album, it seems strangely appropriate.

The repeated references to the devil, and to religion that permeate the album suggest perhaps a wish to atone for something, or to answer critics. Well, in musical terms, somehow over three albums there are no sins to atone for, that’s for sure. This is yet another complete, considered album that clearly has a coherent theme once again, even if this one is not quite as obvious, perhaps, as the first two albums. Like the previous album, it takes things in new and intriguing directions, never giving all the answers and asking yet more questions. The most obvious one, at this stage, again like last time, is where the fuck does ESA go from here? This is his best album yet.

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