To Die By Your Side

Efterklang – Magic Chairs

April 30th, 2010

It seems I’d made two assumptions about Efterklang. Both of which it turns out were completely wrong. The first was thinking I owned some of their music. The second was thinking they sounded like Sigur Ros. Quite why I held either of those beliefs, I’m not entirely sure. A quick search on my iTunes came up empty, while even the slightest of listens to their latest album ‘Magic Chairs’, shows little similarity to Sigur Ros beyond a liking of exquisitely crafted, beautifully orchestrated songs. Whether they’ve ever sounded similar I don’t know but if they’ve been making music as ornate and intoxicating as this, I really should have been listening before now.

Opening track ‘Modern Drift’ positively twinkles. Built around delightfully simple cascading pianos, it swells with rich flurries of strings, brass and xylophones. It’s a stunning opener and sets the standard for an album that rarely lowers it. In the wrong hands it could easily be bombastic and over the top but they manage to stay just the right side of epic. If anything, you get the impression that while perfectly capable of producing something gloriously ostentatious, they actively avoid it. Playing down those tendencies and side stepping the obvious routes. There are no major crescendos. No thundering drums or over expressive choirs. Where songs could easily sweep and soar out of control, Efterklang take a softer more understated route. They swell but never feel bloated.

Also nothing fights for your attention. There are no unnecessary solos. Every instrument of each song knows its place and plays its part. Each an essential cog coming to the fore when needed but never hogging it. Where many bands tack on string and horn sections with little thought or care, Efterklang employ them subtly, crucial elements to the texture of their songs. They bring drama and tension to ‘Full Moon’, a sweet playfulness to ‘Harmonics’, a sense of gorgeous grandness to ‘The Soft Beating’.

Elsewhere ‘Raincoats’ is a jittery collection of handclaps, rhythmic drumming and clipped paranoid guitar. It’s a song that, along with ‘I Was Playing Drums’, calls to mind a more organic version of The Notwist. ‘Mirror Mirror’ swirls and glistens, while closer ‘Natural Tone’ rounds things off with a lulling softness, moving from picked acoustics to rolling piano and lush strings.

It is quite simply a wonderfully crafted album. The kind that makes me want to listen to it again as soon as it finishes. The sort of record you can immerse yourself in and delight in its intricacies. If this isn’t a contender in many end of year lists, I’ll be very surprised.

Efterklang – modern drift (live session version) original version available on ‘Magic Chairs’

Filed Under Album Reviews, Music

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