Since its inception in 2000, the Danish indie rockers in Efterklang have had a polarizing effect on listeners. The band built a strong fan base early on with albums like Tripper
(2004) and Parades
(2007), which in 2009 was rated the "38th best album of the past four years" by Clash magazine. Still, Efterklang's had a hard go at keeping the same devotees from one release to the next. Those who connected with the electronic reverberations and atmospheric quality on Tripper felt betrayed by a greater attention to choral arrangements on Parades. Where once they drew Sigur Ros comparisons, Efterklang had since joined the, sounds-like-Arcade Fire grouping. It then comes as no surprise that on Magic Chairs
, its third studio release, Efterklang makes a departure from its previous stylings once more.
Released on the British indie label, 4AD, Magic Chairs
sustains a melodious core, while stripping away larger orchestrations prevalent on Efterklang's former works. Instead, we're left with a vocally-driven album with Casper Clausen as the leader of this choir of one. On the one hand, it can argued that with such streamlined production, the band has taken a safer route in an attempt to please record execs. Nevertheless, the listener comes to further appreciate the strength of Casper's signature vocal thread. On tracks like "The Soft Beating," soft, cooling vocals temper base lines and drums. Harmonies are understated but nonetheless appreciated. On a road doc shot by the band back in 2009, we witness the same track's DIY capabilities: one of the Efterklang's members even beats himself on the chest in order to create some very effective sound play (I would definitely encourage a viewing; the clips sheds light on the band's inner-workings and rare talent for making music from just about anything - pill bottles, car horns, down pillows - you name it, they play it).
There also remains a meditative quality in Clausen?s lyrical approach. On "Scandinavian Love," line couplings are used sparingly and repetition abounds. In doing so, the track develops organically with instrumental additions (violins, trumpets, xylophone, etc.) at every turn.
It is the album's second track, "Alike" that takes this same approach and really makes for a singular listening experience: Percussion serves as the heartbeat of the song, throbbing steadily whilst Clausen's voice echoes and coos. Tender supporting vocals by sometimes-member Heather Woods Broderick and trombone trickle in and the sound swells. It is dramatic and big, but never ostentatious or contrived. -Megan Diamondstein
* * * * * * * * * * * *
MP3:"Modern Drift" - Magic Chairs
Efterklang on Myspace