ESCAPE ARTISTS: ashes & debris
”…cause a curse to be inherited / even the famed escape artists / forever incarcerated” (The Silence)
25 years and 285 kilometres have parted the three members of Escape Artists. Now the trio is back in the best possible shape with the ep ashes & debris. In spite of the dejected title, a surprisingly vital and updated band can be found among the ashes and debris — a band that is musically more alive than ever.
ashes & debris oozes countless hours of rehearsing and heartfelt passion. In terms of musical style, we are far away from the starting point in the postpunk-scene of the early eighties. Escape Artists anno 2010 is the sound of a band that has grown up and has left every trace of the narcissistic behind.
Escape Artists was originally formed in Haderslev, Denmark, in 1981 by Benny Woitowitz (drums) ,Torben Johansen (vocals, guitar), and Søren Laugesen (bass, vocals). In 1983 the band was featured on the Irmgardz compilation Somewhere Outside. Escape Artists’ personal mix of cool post-punk and art-rock resounded with the Copenhagen scene, where they performed a series of high-profile gigs with e.g. Sods and Gangway.
Before the break-up in 1984, the steadfastly black-clad band released the debut single The Howl on their own label Replik Muzick. The single strongly suggested that Danish music scene would be able to muster a worthy heir to Britain’s Joy Division.
After the end of Escape Artists, Benny Woitowitz continued in Tristan T, which he had been a member of alongside Escape Artists. The always hard-working Torben Johansen joined Gangway after a one-year tenure as backup musician for live performances.
Torben Johansen and Søren Laugesen moved to Copenhagen, while Benny Woitowitz stayed in Haderslev. After several years of contemplation, Benny joined the other two in the capitol, where the three friends started to meet again to play music. After 25 years and 285 kilometres Escape Artists was again a reality.
ashes & debris starts with a bang in terms of The Coming, which shows Escape Artists as a strong trinity. Heavy guitar riffs and a solid rhythm section flanked by Torben Johansen’s emotional and vibrant vocals, displays a band in strong musical growth. Riverway flows gently along, dreamy and dark, while The Silence contains an aggravating melancholy, with roots deep in the band’s past. Here as well as on the other songs, Torben Johansen excels as an outstanding guitar player.
Both The Key featuring Søren Laugesen as lead vocalist and the The Push are electrifying and organically complete compositions. Here, the band plays inventively and employs rhythmic variations, which brings the prog-rock to mind — in its most extrovert incarnations. Escape Artists closes their comeback with the excellent and beautifully floating Kingdom Come.
Despite the more than 25-year long wait Escape Artists is worth revisiting. ashes & debris builds on the band’s past, but looks ahead in an enchanting way. Welcome back!
- Finn P. Madsen (Gaffa)