"To be lonely is a state of mind, something completely other than physical solitude."
"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."
-- Danish writer Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen)
There are Scandinavian countries where daylight lasts for days on end, or darkness continues from one day into the next, depending on the season. Though Copenhagen doesn’t have the deep extremes of its northern neighbors, there remains a culture enveloped in melancholy, mystery, the elements and the sea (Denmark is almost surrounded by the Northern and Baltic seas.) The Danish ensemble, Efterklang, whose name means “remembrance” and “reverberation,” has crafted a recording that encompasses these Danish qualities in a seasonal cycle with its sophomore full-length release, Parades.
As a core group of five members, Efterklang has enlisted the aid of 30 additional musicians to bring to fruition a spectacular orchestration of sound filled with strings, woodwinds, percussion, horns, computer treatments/textures, drums, guitar, bass, piano and choruses. The songs on Parades less songs than they are compositions. This record, in some regards, owes as much debt to Philip Glass as it does to Peter Gabriel and contemporaries, such as Sigur Rós, Mum and Arcade Fire.
However, they do not carry the heavy density of their Icelandic kin, and they only exhibit bursts of the exuberant spirit of the aforementioned Canadian band. Efterklang combines density and exuberance to articulate its culture, in a seasonal arrangement. Simply, Parades feels as if it was constructed with its country’s changing seasons in mind, beginning with the spring-like brightness of the opening tracks of “Polygyne,” Mirador” and “Him Poe Poe,” where strings and percussion and vocals crescendo in unison, ending upward. The stunning “Mirador” begins with a Philip Glass-esque piano line or riff with the percussion accentuating the lines until the piano falls away giving over to strings and a chorus, and then the percussion, not the piano, returning to join with the chorus.
The tone shifts to a darker, more moody area, as if hiding beneath the shade of summer, with “Horseback Tenors,” “Mimeo” and “Frida Found a Friend.” The last bit of autumn has its last blast with the celebratory “Caravan.” Then, winter arrives with the last two cuts, “Illuminant” and “Cutting Ice to Snow.” Vocalist and instrumentalist Casper Clausen anchors these arrangements with his subtle, low, nearly whispering voice that is reminiscent of Peter Gabriel. His vocals only break out, so to speak, in the final song, “Cutting Ice to Snow.” But that entire song ends abruptly, as if to signal that life underneath gets frozen over, succumbing to winter, until the thaw returns.
Efterklang has executed an extraordinary and sophisticated set of “pieces” with Parades, combining orchestral, marching band and contemporary influences. It is also more sure-footed than its predecessor, Tripper, released in 2004. These “remembrances,” both musically and culturally, are deeply reflected and presented in a fresh, unique fashion.