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Efterklang - Springer

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Artist: Efterklang

Album: Springer

Label: Leaf

Review date: Jun. 22, 2005

Click forward 20 years. What will we hear in Efterklang’s Springer, draped as it is in the splintered crackling and popping of the glitch, this era’s ubiquitous electronic signature? Like with David Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees, an album irrevocably marked by the synthesizer - the signature of the ’80s - will we have to wade through the technology to get at the great songs lying beneath?

The 10-piece Danish ensemble has already partially answered this question on their 2004 full-length, Tripper. That LP put them with the wave of songwriters, like Montag and Mum, for whom intricate electronics and acoustic instrumentation stand on equal ground, suggesting that neither element is mutually exclusive, nor sufficient for the music these groups want to make. Now re-issued by Leaf, Springer, the group’s 2003 debut EP, shows a group seeking this balance, but still only halfway there.

The grand gestures germinating on this five-song EP, such as choirs and string sections, later bloomed on Tripper. “Kloy Gyn” accumulates layers of detail like the pieces on their LP. A solemn trumpet, cottony male-female vocals, tinkling piano, the mirrored cascade of a ride cymbal – all introduced in isolation, then swirled rhapsodically together. The instrumental “Filmosonic XL” is Efterklang playing around, looking for sense amidst a mass of colors. Liquid tones, bending and stretching as if in a lava lamp, have their serenity disturbed by low-intensity squelches and motorized whirring

But strip away “Antitech’s” percussive layer of clicking, clacking crunches… and all that remains is the melancholy mumble of a vocal and piano accompaniment; in other words, a tried-and-true pop song. Herein lies the rub: if you just want to make a song, why draw so much attention to the technology?

Probably because music is at a turning point where people stop identifying songwriting with only guitars, just as 50 years ago the guitar usurped the piano as the wellspring of song. “Redrop” most fully contains the delicate web of glitch textures, languid vocals and more traditional arrangements that define Tripper. Aquatic tape acrobatics dissolve into a static sizzle on the intro, a lazy brushed snare mingles with dirge-like piano and soaring, sustained tones. Halfway through, the whole thing falls apart, leaving only the pleading male vocals and a blocky bass tone. At moments like these one realizes Efterklang has found the point where their sounds become song.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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