Chats on Efterklang's new album, which has just come out on 4AD and is the first of theirs that's reached some strange plateau of potential. Their previous records Tripper and Parades were both admirable, but difficult to love -- Magic Chairs barely seems to expend any effort at all in bettering both. Glorious cover artwork as well.
"Magic Chairs demands attention, but in the least obvious of ways. Instead of reaching out and grabbing the listener by the lapels, positively screaming ‘LOVE ME!’, it soaks in gradually over a number of listens. On first listen, the saccharine, almost-twee melody of ‘I Was Playing Drums’ breezes past in a pleasant rush - the sound of a busker playing a familiar song in a Tube station perhaps, or an instantly recognisable song on a passing car’s radio – and disappears into the background again. It’s only an hour or two later that it becomes obvious it’s well and truly lodged in there, and is stubbornly refusing to leave.
This curiously elusive quality is largely due to the orchestration. Make no mistake, this is one of the most beautifully arranged ‘indie’ albums I’ve heard in a long time, reaching for the heights of Owen Pallett’s recent masterstroke Heartland in subtlety and scope. There’s a delicate sleight of hand at play here that enables each song’s backbone of strings and brass to remain at times almost inaudibly buried in the mix, but to maintain a definitive presence. The hyper-percussive whorl of ‘Raincoats’ sounds sparse on initial inspection but upon closer examination reveals a densely layered core, and when the strings finally reach the fore on the jaunty thrum of ‘Full Moon’ the effect is one of dazzling, glorious release.
Best of all, though, remains ‘Alike’. Testament to Magic Chairs’ transcendent oddness, it initially seemed one of the album’s more unremarkable songs, breezing perfectly pleasantly through ever-so-slightly MOR leanings. But once again it’s the tiny nuances that prove definitive, and as a gradually rising interplay of brass begins to invade the track’s very centre and rip its very structure apart, it heads straight for the sky, dashing streaks of brightly coloured paint over all it touches, like an astral Jackson Pollack. For all my misgivings about Efterklang and that certain snag that just won’t let go, the prevailing wind is getting ever harder to resist."
Full review up at Middle Boop.