In 2006, as part of a series of one sided LPs, Burnt Toast Vinyl made available a three track release by hazy Danish trio Efterklang. It's only ever been available on vinyl, 'til now. Leeds based The Leaf Label have decided to give us all the chance to hear these three sweet tracks by making the record available as a download.
It might total in at under 15 minutes, but these three tracks aren't just for the collectors out there, they stand up on their own as a compositions which explore the grandest and bleakest of gestures in one fell swoop. If you heard last year's Piramida and fell in love or have been with them since the orchestral movements of Tripper first gripped you then you're going to want to hear this one.
'Tu Es Mon Image' featuring fellow Dane Martin Hall on vocals starts off as a peaceful even chirpy number which brings to mind the lakeside scene depicted on the album cover. The blurred vocals and faint chime of the glockenspiel become ever more apparent as the track effortlessly inches its way through a change in tone to a 65 Days Of Static style laptop meltdown. The way it builds to this fuzzy crescendo is artful. Opening number 'Falling Post' is a tense number which breathily pushes its way into a disturbed world and then back through the bleak mirror to show you how it started. The solemn strings and heavy brushed drums strive to make you recognise your uncomfortable nature and veer into the quiet loud territory of Sigur Ros. In the middle comes the terse off kilter babbling of 'God Vind, Kaptajn!' which is a pithy interlude clearly showing Efterklang are just as adept at heightening the senses in two minutes as they are in eight.
Continue reading: Efterklang - One-Sided LP Review
Albums of Note… Copenhagen band Efterklang release Piramida, an album named after a Norwegian ghost town. Befitting of such a theme, the music itself falls somewhere between Brian Eno, Sigur Ros and The Blue Nile. Though they're writing about a town full of ugly abandoned Cold War-era buildings, Efterklang have somehow instilled Piramida with "an atmosphere of warmth" and our reviewer was so impressed, he went so far as to say that they write songs that are "everything you'd love an Elbow song to actually sound like." "With the pop world and everything else now divided beyond conciliation, what was once perceived as avant garde is now just another way of working."
Are they a choir? Or just a ridiculously large indie pop band? Whatever they are, the twenty women that make up Gaggle have crafted a fine album in From The Mouth of The Cave. The debut album from this unusual group is never dull and combined, their voices have some serious dramatic potential: "20 plus women joining together in a deliberately paired back drum and vocal delivery about being wronged, abused, deceived, damaged and pained is a formidable thing." "From The Mouth Of The Cave' is a challenging album from Gaggle. It is an experience and at times it can be hard work. it break(s) certain boundaries and above all it shows a great deal of promise for what else might yet come from the most unconventional girl group on the planet."
You assume that a band with a name like Efterklang are some sort of hirsute German krautrockers, obsessed with their own dictatorial minimalism. In fact, the now reduced trio of Casper Clausen, Mads Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg - drummer and trumpet player Thomas Husmer left last year - are from Copenhagen, and whilst at times in the past they've had to withstand accusations of pretentiousness, Piramida threatens to nudge them into full view of the mainstream.
Given the manner in which some of its source materials were procured, that's an outcome which seems scarcely credible. The album's named after a Norwegian ghost town abandoned by the Russians at the end of the last century, one that contains items like the most northerly grand piano on the planet amongst many other artefacts equally weird and wonderful. As their brief "Making of" video documents, Clausen and co. spent ten days there gathering hours of eccentric, haunting and sometimes plain odd field recordings, subsequently making them the basis of a remarkable group of songs which fall in tone somewhere between Brian Eno, Sigur Ros and Glasgow's almost legendary The Blue Nile. What's remarkable is that despite ostensibly writing about a small group of ugly and abandoned cold war buildings, the trio have created an atmosphere of warmth; the music possessed of a deep sense of spirituality. The six minutes plus of Black Summer are understatedly epic, building choirs of brass on mountains of wild, blue eyed Nordic soul. The effect is cathartic to the extent that repeated listens bring forward a revelation. After searching for the moment a little, you suddenly realise that it's everything you'd love an Elbow song to actually sound like.
Once those particular doors of perception have been blown off, the realisations come in waves; on Piramida, Efterklang have managed to make big sound vulnerable, intelligent and brave. All this is synthesised from fragments generated by objects which men have rejected as having used up their earthly purpose, the exercise like a grand, genius game of skip raiding. It's a slow burning entrapment, but with the lo-fi electronica of The Living Layer they're evoking all sorts of hallucinations of trees, sunsets and flowers, despite using little more than a few looped pulses and a wavering voice.
Continue reading: Efterklang - Piramida Album Review
My previous brushes with Efterklang have left an impression of some very studied, considered music that's perhaps a little impersonal and cold at times. I have no such reservations about 'Parades', though. Right from the opening track 'Polygyne', this is an album that has much more warmth, more humanity than the material I'd heard previously. And it's mainly to do with the greater use of voices, I think. You could even call them choirs. Sure the scratchy machine beats are there, but so are all manner of more 'organic' instruments strings and woodwind mainly, although some very convincing timpani also appear, as well as a sprightly piano. It's an ambitious opening track, grand in scale and complex in construction, with a hint of melancholy and some interesting harmonies. 'Mirador' again features light machine percussion, but it's tempered by a piano, flute, brass and more voices. It's almost like a Northern European Broken Social Scene or Most Serene Republic - it has that feeling of an ensemble piece that seems to be prevalent in some Canadian music these days, but it's not as loose. The brass and strings are no less joyous in their own way, though.
'Him Poe Poe' features rather lush piano, occasionally Nymanesque strings, more massed voices and some rather fetching bass drones. 'Horseback Tenors' is an even more string-driven thing that trots and canters along in turns while voices provide some rather nice harmonies. Again, there's a fantastic droning bass which will vibrate your eyeballs if you turn it up loud enough (or so my research suggests), and the ending is again full of joy, all fanfare and lusty Wicker Man singing before a descent into melancholy and contemplation. 'Mimeo' clocks in at under a minute and features the most mournful piano I've heard in a good while, while 'Frida Found A Friend' features breathy, almost whispered vocals and strange, creaking percussion. There's also some very bleak trumpet or in there (or it might be a cornet). And more voices, of course. 'Atmospheric' doesn't quite do it justice. Some of the chord progressions in the last couple of minutes or so are rather lovely in a gloomy, funereal kind of way. Perhaps Frida's friend died. Who knows?
'Maison De Reflexion' begins with strings, quasi-military and a machine-like whirring noise that's rather disconcerting. There's more agreeable choral work, and some big bowed bass noises underpinning everything. There's a short section dominated by tinkling noises that give way to piano and strings. Again the overall effect is mournful, but not in a cloying way. Everything's done with a deft, light touch and a good deal of subtlety. 'Blowing Lungs Like Bubbles' again showcases almost whispered vocals, set against an instrumental backing that has an accordion popping its head over the parapet from time to time. There's some interesting harmonies in the backing vocals and a strange, remote twinkling noise as the icing on the cake. 'Caravan' begins with some delayed, layered guitar arpeggios, some more quasi-military drumming and a jaunty vocal line that again sounds vaguely Canadian. There's a rich variety of brass backing (is that a French horn?) and some more of that bedrock bass sound lurking underneath everything.
'Illuminant' is a slow, meditative piece featuring more massed voices, a guitar or two, a piano, a rainstorm, and sundry other good things. 'Cutting Ice To Snow' is the triumphant finale, building to a crescendo full of happy piano and voices that are perilously close to Polyphonic Spree territory, but without crossing into the fixed grin happy-happy-happiness of everybody's favourite Disney Dravidians. It's a great way to finish the album, sounding a note - or rather several notes - of optimism that contrast nicely with some of the album's more reflective moments. Good stuff.
This is a very pretty record indeed. There are some very well thought out arrangements, a great variety of instruments on display, and the quality and warmth of some of the singing is very good. It's fair to say it's unlikely to get you pogoing around the house, and some of it is a little broody and introverted, but at the same time there's a great deal in it to admire. Well worth a listen.