By: Dennis Cook
Onomatopoeia is a funny thing. Strictly speaking it means, "using words that imitate the sound they denote," but there's palpable effervesce to just pushing out the six syllables. Common onomatopoeia include "cuckoo," "boom" and the granddaddy of American Lit. examples, "tintinnabulation" (oh those crazy bells…). Add to this list Copenhagen's Efterklang, whose name conjures up chimes and movement and grand collisions. Without pussyfooting around, I'll tell you that Parades (Leaf/Rumraket) is probably unlike almost anything you've heard. All the traits inherent in their name are present, joined by a brass quintet, three different choirs and a string quartet alongside the usual rock instrumentation and a healthy dose of electronic manipulation. At the risk of hyperbole, Parades may be the most compelling, achingly beautiful merger of electro-acoustic elements to ever sneak out of the experimental realm and into our hearts.
The Danish group consists of five core members who've played together since 2001 - Casper Clausen (vocals, multi-instrumentalist, production), Thomas Husmer (drums, trumpet, percussion), Rasmus Stolberg (guitar), Rune Mølgaard (piano) and Mads Brauer (electronics, production). Only their second full-length, Parades is the product of 18 months of painstaking work that includes the contributions of over 30 guest musicians. While sections bear a passing resemblance to the chilly otherness of Sigur Ros and Bjork or the borderless, frequently pastoral electronics of Boards of Canada and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, there's an orchestral reach and chest swelling emotional core to Efterklang that makes them truly unique. Most bands would kill to possess the creative juggernaut of ideas contained in just the first 10 minutes here, where "Polygyne" and "Mirador" gently lift us into a world more colorful and volatile than our own.
Recorded in large rooms and mixed by Darren Allison (My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space) on analog equipment with Efterklang’s Mads Brauer, Parades is a terrifying, bucolic puzzle box one escapes from and then returns to willingly, again and again and again.
According to their website, their method involves "one long process of sculpturing; adding, stretching or subtracting the pieces of each song, finding the right melodies to guide the different pieces and instrumentation of it all." It goes beyond the simple praise of "organic" into "fully cultivated" or "greenhouse audioculture." The chirping flute and countrywide vista that opens Parades suggests we've wandered into Snow White's house. But, the fair beauty awakens to a dystopian future where she discovers the Tyrell Corporation has implanted her fairytale memories. Each surface here hides much below, and only by willingly descending into it all will you really get your hands around the thing.
Most of the vocals are in English but don't expect to pull pithy bits of wisdom from their thick miasma. In the Q & A section of their site, Casper Clausen says, "We like the idea of the lyrics being totally connected to the music and not separated in text form. When listeners create their own imaginations from what they hear, then the lyrics work the way we would like them to."
Efterklang is the more sparkling, compassionate cousin to Polish Classical Music composer Henryk Górecki. They share Górecki's gift for wordless heartache and his gorgeously fractured string and percussion arrangements. Within his music and theirs lies the thing that undoes the Tower of Babel and returns humankind to a state of universal communication. Yes, the specificity of language is largely lost but what's gained is so much greater.
JamBase | Denmark
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