Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Newly signed to 4AD, Efterklang make their label debut with Magic Chairs, their third full-length studio album on February 22nd 2010. Since 2000, the Copenhagen-based quartet (plus an ever evolving number of collaborators) have been quietly honing their craft, fusing left-of-centre electronic beats with grand orchestral gestures. Self-sufficient by nature and necessity, the band have until now, always written, recorded and produced every element of their music from the comfort of their Copenhagen bunker. In this time, they have also released records through their own Rumraket label, working with the likes of Grizzly Bear, amiina and Slaraffenland also. So far, the results have been nothing short of revelatory; in particular, 2007's hugely ambitious Parades, an album that was difficult to define but even harder to fault, it raised their profile enormously and with Magic Chairs, they continue their evolution, exploring previously unchartered territory. Taking inspiration from the great purveyors of rock and pop music who reveled in the joys of a simple pop melody, Efterklang set about stripping back their own music to its basic core, road-testing new tracks at live shows before committing them to tape. Like everything else, the recording process was also to be a brand new experience and unlike the lengthy gestation of Parades, recording for Magic Chairs was a relatively brief and straightforward business. Removing themselves from their home city and heading to Aarhus' Feedback Recording Studio, the band recorded basic tracks as a band (drums, bass, guitars and piano), replicating the live set-up from where the songs had initially taken form. Later, back in Copenhagen, orchestral flourishes were added and guest musicians were called upon (including their touring band members - Peter Broderick, Heather W. Broderick, Frederik Teige and Daniel James). For even greater clarity of sound, British engineer and producer Gareth Jones (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, Interpol, Mogwai, Grizzly Bear, Wire and more) was drafted in for mixing duties to work alongside their in-house electronics wizard, Mads Brauer. The result is an intimate and immediate record that exudes warmth. The grandiose classical structures heard so prominently and admired so highly in previous albums Tripper and Parades have been replaced by something far more streamlined, deconstructed and altogether melodious. Opening track 'Modern Drift' is a statement of intent with its intricate and looping arpeggios whilst 'I Was Playing Drums' is arguably their most accessible pop song to date, the echoes of its refrain linger irresistibly in the ear. Magic Chairs still bears the occasional signature moment (an electronic buzz here, a choral flair there) but all told, it is an album that is an even bolder step forward.
CMJ - "Efterklang's most recent release proves its sound to be as devastatingly endearing as we remembered, and this time with even more grit."
Paste (magazine) (p.60) - "Efterklang has casually drifted from the more overtly classical structures of its earliest work toward tighter rock songs rendered with the elegance and precision of cut glass."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[O]n album highlight and opener 'The Modern Drift', loose, rattling drums puncture a canvas of pointillist piano and stretched strings."
Clash (magazine) - "Paired down to their essence, this distilled Efterklang is premium strength stuff."
Audio Mixer: Gareth Jones .
Recording information: Black Tornado, Copenhagen; Efterklang Studio, Copenhagen; Feedback Recording, Århus; STC Music Recording, Copenhagen.
Photographer: Brian Buchard.
While not quite as innovative as their Nordic neighbors Sigur Rós and Björk, Efterklang taps into the Icelandic sound with electronic beats, moving orchestral backgrounds, and dreamy vocal melodies. For Magic Chairs, the Danish chamber pop ensemble's third album and 4AD debut, the approach is refined a bit. Recording for the first time outside of their home studio, the band tracked the basic drum, guitar, bass, and vocal parts outright, before returning to Copenhagen to add string and brass flourishes, courtesy of 17 accompanying musicians. While this may sound overblown, it's actually a step back from 2004's Tripper, which featured twice as many guests, or 2007's Parades, which showcased a grand total of three choirs. Even with its massive production, Magic Chairs surprises by never feeling overly bloated. The arrangements accent and enhance appropriately, ebbing and flowing along with Casper Clausen's passionate lead vocals. Opening anthem "Modern Drift" is the standout single, with its exultant "I can't keep my head inside" chorus, but as dense as the album is, there's an endless number of other patchworked sonic ideas to latch onto, digital and otherwise. Fans of Menomena, Elbow, and Grizzly Bear should definitely look into this. ~ Jason Lymangrover