(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Springer (2003), 7/10 (EP)
Tripper (2004) , 6.5/10
One Sided LP (2006), 7/10 (EP)
Parades (2007) , 5/10
Magic Chairs (2010), 5/10
Piramida (2012), 4.5/10

Efterklang, a quintet from Denmark, debuted with the EP Springer (Rumraket, 2003 - Leaf, 2005), a collection of madrigals for chamber ensemble and electronics. The eight-minute Kloy Gyn is a tender lullaby that doesn't do much more than build up slowly. The seven-minute Antitech, sung in a dejected tone over romantic piano notes and chaotic percussion, echoes film music from the Sixties. Redrop is four minutes of pure psychedelic ecstasy. The electronic effects also prevail in the six-minute Filmosonic XL, that almost sounds like a sci-fi soundtrack. Even when it stays closer to Earth, the music of Efterklang has an alien element, mainly due to the lack of emotion in the playing and singing. Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen, Rasmus Stolberg, pianist Rune Molgaard Fonseca, percussionist Thomas Kirirath Husmer create an ambience for their simple songs that is similar to Rachel's chamber post-rock music, but the Danish quintet differs in two key ways: it adds the human voice to the instrumental base, and the instrumental base is not convoluted at all (in fact, quite melodic and linear).

The sense of melancholy is even stronger on the album Tripper (Leaf, 2004), recorded by a ten-piece line-up that also included trumpet and strings. The songs are multifaceted, apparently repetitive but actually continuously morphing. The ensemble employs an arsenal of instruments and voices to craft gentle, melodic, sophisticated, electroacoustic whispered lieder (not the grand symphonies that one would expect); like the fragile piano-based elegy of Swarming, pivoting on the counterpoint of drum-machine and strings, and mutating into a simple lullabye with minimalist repetition; like the solemn fanfare of Collecting Shields, the offspring of rhythmic invention (skittering beats) and choral chanting (when the beats end); like the languid slo-core litany that emerges from Doppelganger after a sonata for feeble piano notes and sustained violin notes and a wistful choir's interlude. Collecting Shields feels like surfing on a feather. As the repeated lines of a children's choir intersects with an equally mechanic men's choir, minimalist patterns pop up everywhere. There are many places where the ensemble appropriates the minimalist technique (Monopolist sounds like an excerpt from a Philip Glass opera) but sometimes it is a way to disguise a lack of melodic inspiration. This album set a new standard for integrating orchestral arrangements, digital sound effects and melodic vocal harmonies.

The three-song One Sided LP (2006) went against the main current of the album with Falling Post, their more abstract and purely atmospheric composition yet, and Tu Es Mon Image, an impressionistic painting of cascading plinking notes that turns into twinkling oneiric voyage.

The five-song EP Under Giant Trees (2007) is a demonstration of how to ruin splendid music with terrible endings. Falling Horses feels so fragile and it exudes sense of emptiness, but then it drowns in a crescendo of deafening pomp. Himmelbjerget is an unlikely balance of graceful and cold (with a female choir that sounds from the Pacific islands) until it explodes in a ruinous fanfare. Jojo is typical of how they build up a symphonic crescendo and then don't know what to do with it. The consolation prize is the pastoral, elegiac instrumental Hands Playing Butterfly.

Parades (2007) delivered on the premises of those experiments by secreting chamber pop for elaborate arrangements. Polygyne displays the full arsenal of tricks: minimalist repetition (by the percussion, by the horns, by the strings), and the call and response between the ecstatic male singing and the celestial female choir. When the repetition is minimized, the songs have to stand on their own merit, and only a few succeed. Mirador, for example, does not go anywhere: just confused vocal harmonies and interlocking strings. Horseback Tenors, on the contrary, goes somewhere, but the destination is odd, to say the least: a medieval dance blown out of proportion with heavy metal bombast although performed with the amateurish aplomb of a marching band. The choir is positively moving towards the operatic dimension, but the results are closer to background muzak than to classical music. The truth is that the choir has become a liability; not only predictable but also so incredibly limited. The one piece that succeeds is Illuminant, a sort of abstract psychedelic soundpainting.

Performing Parades (2009) documents a live performance of the entire Parades album by the Danish National Chamber Orchestra.

The grandeur that was missing from previous albums, but clearly feasible for this ensemble, rained heavily on Magic Chairs (2010). The much streamlined sound aimed for mass consumption, but ditties like I Was Playing Drums sound like minor XTC vignette, or adult contemporary muzak (Full Moon). Meanwhile, Mirror Mirror spins out the 1000th, 1001st and 1002nd minimalist pattern (piano, strings, choir); not exactly breathtaking. The upbeat and catchy (and vaguely Caribbean) Scandinavian Love is the least tedious song.

The concept album Piramida (2012), that used field recordings from a Russian ghost town of the Arctic, was more abstract and less pop. However, the results are still tediously trivial. The Ghost recalls David Sylvian's Japan of the 1980s. Told To Be Fine is another step towards the adult dancefloor for middle-aged people who grew up with Steely Dan. Dreams Today tries to disguise the fact that it is playing the 2000th minimalist pattern by employing a 70-piece female choir.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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