Above all else, the 20th century will be remembered for its extreme technological advances. Going hand in hand with music's 100 year assimilation of all things digital has been the rise of minimalism, and going hand in hand with the rise of minimalism has been an increase of, well, shitty bands. It's not that incompetence is inherent in minimalism, but at a certain point the method produces fertile ground for sour shit to blossom. Being a music reviewer only brings to light just how much awful stuff is being created these days; so when an album like Efterklang's Tripper arrives at your door, it's a breath of fresh air.
That's not to say that Efterklang, the Copenhagen ten-piece, is the most original band around. On the contrary, their sound is fairly easily classified somewhere between Müm and Sigur Rós, but a balance of minimalistic intellectualism makes them more rewarding than your average post-rock outfit. An array of glitched out beats appear in just about every song, providing a skeletal, electronic foundation for the compositions to work over. The real meat of the record is tackled by core members Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen, and Rasmus Stolberg, but most highlights come courtesy of the Amina string quartet (best known for their work with Sigur Rós) and the Greenlandic choir, who take Tripper to ambitious, if at times unsteady, heights.
Such lofty dynamics usually veer towards pretension, and Efterklang might have come off overly gaudy if they weren't such competent performers. A set of somber compositions and excellent choral arrangements immeasurably support the band's cause, making it difficult for naysayers to bash their somewhat familiar sound and aesthetic. In fact, despite each track's heavily layered instrumentation, mood is never compromised for the sake of complexity. "Collecting Shields," the albums centerpiece, is perhaps best representative of this approach. Starting off with a single soprano line, the song gradually builds to incorporate just about every element in Efterklang's repertoire. A clear focus is on vocals, which shift between female and male lead, a second reverb laced female line, and the full choir.
Things never quite reach the pummeling heights of a band like Godspeed! You Black Emperor, but Efterklang's music isn't so much about the big payoff. It's about the process, where each moment can be enjoyed as much as the next. The meticulous approach creates a rich album, albeit one that never really catches you off guard. That is to say, nothing ever grabs your groin and demands attention. Tripper is more comparable to a steady, hour long punch to the gut. You decide which is more painful.
3. Step Aside
4. Prey and Predator
5. Collecting Shields
7. Tortuous Tracks
9. Chapter 6