To some, Danish outfit Efterklang appear to lurk in the shadow of stadium-filling Nordic friends Sigur Rós – and on the surface, at least, that appears to be the case. Heaven isn’t Wembley Arena, after all.
But success is relative, of course. By embracing an evergreen desire for experimentation, Efterklang have committed to an existence in the commercial background – but before a rammed Heaven crowd, their sound couldn’t be more appealing.
Having spent much of 2013 on tour, in support of their most-recent LP ‘Piramida’ (Clash review), the band is no doubt road weary. But from the first enveloping synth tones, which somehow sound like 10,000 steel drums being brushed at the same time, it’s obvious that the ups and downs of life on the road have had a positive impact. Efterklang sound better than ever.
Opener ‘Hollow Mountain’ is an ideal palette cleaner: it possesses the capacity to wash away expectations amongst newcomers while also stimulating a subconscious need to root around one’s head for a musical point of reference. Like much of its makers’ catalogue, it’s not entirely original – but it is its own entity, and not quite like any other one thing in particular.
Later, more identifiable parallels present themselves – but with crisp guitars and smooth basslines, Efterklang are perhaps more David Bowie and Roxy Music of design than another act trading in Sigur Rós and múm tropes. They masterfully build textures through brooding synths, pianos and guitar effects, which are punctured by drums both jarring and binding. This balance is most effective on ‘Step Aside’, ‘The Living Prayer’ and ‘Between The Walls’.
An hour of delectable colours and flavours, Efterklang’s set comes over like a tantalising 12-course meal. Each song navigates the elements and iconography of particular genres – post-rock for instance – while materialising in a manner that gives it all-new life. Yes, they use an ebow on their electric guitars – but the effect is merely a constituent of the overall sound, rather than a centre-stage attraction.
Returning to the Sigur Rós ‘comparison’, it’s pretty clear that, today, the Icelandic band relies on a fixed dynamic formula that consistently works for them – live, at least. Efterklang, meanwhile, exhibit a freedom synonymous with a band just starting out. The sound tonight is one of liberation – and nobody here would have it any differently.
Words: Russell Cook
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Clash’s new Pop Issue doesn’t have any articles on Efterklang in it, but you might like it anyway.