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Efterklang - Under Giant Trees

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Artist: Efterklang

Album: Under Giant Trees

Label: Leaf

Review date: May. 4, 2007

This five track EP, lasting half an hour, comes with enough newsworthy stories to fill a tabloid, never mind a review. Once you get past the beguiling sleeve art, inside lurk four magical puzzle cards… yes, yes, they really are magic; see YouTube if you don’t believe me. And then there is the limited white vinyl LP edition of 1,200 copies – except numbers 1 to 20 were stolen so they’ve been replaced by hand-lettered copies that are being sold on eBay, with all proceeds going to save the rainforest. (Are you still with me?) Meanwhile, this EP has hit the top of the singles chart in the band’s native Denmark – which apparently means it has sold over ten copies. Hooray for the wonderful world of hype…

So, what of the music? Well, it is very listenable and also very difficult to categorize (and it does nothing to dispel the widely held belief that the most interesting music currently being produced, per head of population, comes from Scandinavia.) Efterklang developed these songs whilst touring their debut album Tripper – which had a certain chilly starkness about it, with its marriage of electronic glitches, lush strings and vocal harmonies. For the songs here, they intentionally tried to add variety to Tripper’s sound palette, augmenting the band with extra vocals, brass and violins… and they have succeeded.

The most common description of Efterklang’s music is “cinematic”; they cite such filmmakers as Bergman and Herzog as influences, and – although it is a cliché to say it – much of their music sounds like the soundtrack for an unmade film; conjuring up strong, but ill-defined, moods, it often cries out for accompanying images. That description applies more than ever here. (It was no surprise to learn that founder members Casper Clausen and Mads Brauer have since scored an animated feature, Princess.)

The opener, “Falling Horses,” starts with distant soft-focus voices that act as a drone, plus impressionistic keyboards before hitting a memorably melodic and rhythmic groove accompanied by a lone violin and massed strings. That may sound like an odd assortment, but it works. Next up, “Himmelbjerger” features more breathy, wordless vocals, a recurring feature here. “Towards the Bare Hill” is a highlight – very reminiscent of Moondog’s naïve songs and strict tempo, percussion-fuelled music. “Jojo” brings us full circle, back to where we came in, dominated by strings and voices. The occasional emergence of the lone violin, carrying a theme, has a charming poignancy.

Efterklang have a new full-length album on the way later in the year. Meanwhile, this EP is far more than a holding operation; having its own distinctive charm and character, it’s a notable step forward.

By John Eyles

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