Though Sufjan’s stamp is certainly neatly pressed in bright red ink over the close cornered genre of contemporary chamber folk, one would be hard-pressed to ignore the work of Danish band Efterklang after a listen to the astonishing recorded work they offer with their recently released third album, Parades (The Leaf Label). Just sifting through the liner notes is a chore. With an endless array of musicians lending their classical contributions to the five piece core that is Efterklang, it’s best to skip all this browsing and head straight for your play button.
Once there, listeners will find that Parades does more than trace over the lines paved along the orchestral pop-way by their American, almost-counterpart. Rather, Efterklang etch out their own identity by favoring a bit of the freak over the folk. Take opener “Polygyne”, for example. After some quisitive layers of primer - gentle vocals, some glitchy electronic sputterings, a rolling guitar line, and the eventual, timpani enhanced build - the track flops along to the kind of odd ball bassoons that evoke images of marching broom sticks hauling wooden pails of water for a Mickey Moused sorcerer. Quite simply, Parades is a record of a more cinematic nature; so much so, you can hear the rickety flicker of the reels turning in your head. What images do they project? On one particular listen to “Mirador”, the hushed vocals, broken “ba da das” and plump, brass punctuations set the stage for a personal triumph in my mind concerning my life in a place where no one said I could find a home. Take that! Of course, the same track also seemed to fit the rather sad scene of a fat man I spied through a diner’s window – an obvious table for one – slowly gouging himself to his grave.
I suppose this is just the thing about Parades; it is an album that resonates with more than enough mood to cover a full range of emotions. The celestial strains of rum pum pum snare drum, whimsical trumpets, and medleys of woodwind and string spliced throughout compositions like “Him Poe Poe”, “Horseback Tenors”, and “Caravan” offer plenty of possibilities by allowing almost any particular imagery to come to mind. In doing so, the album offers no reason to confuse such grand scope for window dressing. Not only could listeners dig and dig for the roots of these dense orchestrations and not find them, but the heaping choruses and appropriately wintered orchestrations that come and go are absolutely necessary in sparking the imagination. Throughout the album’s entirety Efterklang take listeners for a unique peak through the most intricate of sonic kaleidoscopes. Turn the dial on your I-Pod…new patterns, shapes, and colors are sure to reveal themselves track by glorious track. – David Pitz