Efterklang: Magic Chairs

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Aidan Williamson

19th February 2010
At 14:10 GMT

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New beginnings beckon for the Danish classically-inspired alternative post-rock band as they move to a new home - 4AD Records - and seemingly, a new genre.

With album number three, Efterklang have defiantly shifted away from what was already staked as 'their niche'. Magic Chairs is an often triumphant attempt to fuse together classical instrumentation with ambient and the more sober post-rock textures. This paradigmatic deviation places the Danes much closer to a more conventional approach to indie rock. Although on occasion it does leave them stuck in the wastelands between: lacking the melodic pop melodies while simultaneously pulling away from the unabashed experimentation which can make their songs intriguing.

These are not problems the band have to frequently deal with though. "Modern Drift" is a perfect execution of all the goals the band had seemingly set before themselves. Quietly building in its form, we're whisked from a nimble and brisk tinkling ivory shore to percussion punctuating each line from vocalist Casper Clausen, occasionally sweeping across to underline his words instead. Ever so stealthily, the rest of the eclectic array of instruments hook the song and lift it up, working towards that tapestry logging the weft of an ageless, woven complexity. Restraint is the key here though. The mood is kept demure as legions of sounds come into the fray. This is Efterklang's gift: to create depth without muddying the field.

On this note the band never fail, but in their move to mirror contemporary indie a little more they exposed themselves to the challenge of having to enrapture their audience with hooks and noteworthy rhythms. Feet occasionally stumble here. While the ambient sounds with which the band began their career make no such demands, Magic Chairs hopes to mesmerise through diversity and to stupefy with melody. Frequently, basically everything from "Full Moon" until the conclusion of the album, they achieve both goals. Yet there are a few songs where Efterklang veer too far towards eccentric to comfortably fit on the album. Consider a few examples.

Second track "Alike" seems overrun by percussion to the point of distraction. Throw a seed on the field, and like thorns, the drums just seem to choke it, preventing it from growth. The disparate parts which make up the song never quite gel together as you'd hope they would and we're left with a pleasant, but disengaging use of four minutes of the album. "Harmonics" suffers from much the same affliction. Residing in a valley - or rut - between songs it never raises itself from monotone - save for a brief dalliance in a mid-song breakdown. Another four minutes squandered on good music which could have been great.

These black marks are just a speck though, an annoying speck though it may be. None of them diminish the overall opinion that Efterklang have wisely positioned themselves as one of the most accomplished of post-rock bands, since they do precisely what the genre set out to do: use rock instruments in new and exciting ways. Pair that with their arsenal of classical timbres and tones and you have a fear-inspiring collective ready to make waves, equipped with both knowledge and ability. Resistance is futile.

Rating:  8 / 10

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