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Efterklang - Tripper

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Artist: Efterklang

Album: Tripper

Label: Leaf

Review date: Apr. 27, 2005

Aside from a 2003 EP, this is the debut album from the Copenhagen-based collective Efterklang ("aftersound," or perhaps "echo") - but it doesn't sound much like a debut. Bringing in extra members on strings and brass instruments, as well as a choir, Efterklang have constructed a set of elegant, carefully composed songs that seem to effortlessly blend both instrumentation and genres. Built of layers, the album could be termed "electro-acoustic classical-glitch dramatic pop soundtracks," if you were so inclined.

What does that mean? Well, for the most part Efterklang's modus operandi seems to begin with a bed of electronics, delicate clicks and pops building up to occasional heavy clanks and drum fills, though always relatively sedate. Over the electronic sounds, layers of synths drone and strings swell, while piano, even brass instruments come and go. The vocals all tend to fade into the music, more like instruments than words; it's generally impossible to pick out what's being sung aside from a word here and there, but that doesn't stop the vocals from being an essential part of the whole.

Those looking for touchpoints could certainly reference M83, whose blend of digital textures and synthetic symphonies is similar, but they seem to target a rougher, more intense aesthetic. Efterklang's dolorous melancholy is more akin to Iceland's Mum, perhaps. Some writers have mentioned Iceland's other recent export, Sigur Ros, but their gauzy sound lacks the sonic pollution that gives Efterklang's sound an added depth and character.

It's difficult to single out any of the nine pieces here, but the single "Swarming" is probably most representative. Gentle bells, infused with clicks and digital choppiness, open the piece. A piano melody enters, together with gentle vocals, forming the backbone of the song, then the drums are added and the song begins an upward sweep that pulls you in and forward.

It's this combination of melody and drama that forms Efterklang's personality. Without the infusion of pop song ideas, these songs would end up as soundtrack material, inevitably background music. The inclusion of multiple vocal lines that play off each other, and the piano and strings on top of it, makes each piece memorable and individualized.

By Mason Jones

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