I was going to start this review with a joke about how `Efterklang’ is actually Danish for post rock, but it turns out that’s not too far from the mark. The word actually literally means `after the noise,’ which is pretty darn close enough. Because where rock mostly misses is in a range of emotional intensity (save for maybe Meatloaf), and today’s post rock bands have that in spades. With acts such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mogwai and Sigur Rós, I began to believe that creating such lush and dramatic compositions was something inherent in artists above the 45th parallel, but Slint and Explosions in the Sky have proven that more temperate climates can incubate the post rock. I don’t want to get too bogged down in definitions because I’ve never particularly relied on them. Ultimately, Efterklang will be shelved in the pop/rock section of your local record store, anyway, so does it really matter? What matters is that this Copenhagen quintet (which becomes a nine-piece on tour) is jaw-droppingly great (I think I just made up some words there), and will end up being a band I champion more vocally since I already finalized my best of the year list.
One of the biggest differences between Efterklang’s Parades and a lot of other post rock is the near complete absence of rock sounds. The pieces swell and ebb and flow along with the best of them, but the tracks bear more of a resemblance to nu-folk, chamber pop and post-romantic classical. In fact, the end result is what you might imagine as a supergroup combination of Jonny Greenwood’s computer editing antics, Sufjan Stevens’ blend of whispery and choral voices, marching band horns and meticulous arrangement, Sigur Rós’ narrative stream and flair for both the weepy and charged string section, and Puccini’s gift of melodrama, yet far more subtle. To be sure, Parades does indeed play like an opera. Even the album’s cover gives you a glimpse of what to expect, in the busy-ness of the charming and precious characters in a fantasy, cartoonish world. “Frida Found a Friend” is probably one of the more illustrative examples of this spectacular hybrid. Horns, strings, white noise, keyboard percussion along with blips and bleeps, and an overall sensation that this is more than just a song pervade this track. Parades, in essence, reminds us once again, that music is an art form.
There is something extraordinarily captivating about the music of Efterklang. It’s as if once you begin listening, you are transported to a completely new world. I would often forget exactly where I was in space and time when listening to Parades. My troubles at work would evaporate, I would arrive home from my commute not completely aware of the details of the drive, and I would realize I had been at home listening and had forgotten to eat dinner. I know that people have done this and continue to do this with video games, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been so utterly taken by an album. I’ve listened to so many songs, albums and bands over the past four years that I can tend to become jaded, skeptical and apathetic about `next big things.’ I don’t think I’ve heard anyone slap that tag on Efterklang, but after hearing Parades and songs like the tribal drum beat of “Maison de Réflexion” and the brilliant and sparkly “Caravan,” someone needs to.