Efterklang’s third long-player opens with a song so exquisite, so alluring of textural depth and enveloping of divine ambience, that all else fades away. Tunnel vision of the senses, peripheries blurred and spiralled into a Turner-style canvas-drama on the cornea. It’s intoxicating, Modern Drift, a song that stills the rush of a modernity that structures its time around the comparative triviality of necessity. It’s exemplary escapism. It’s where this record puts its first foot wrong.
Because where now? Efterklang achieved great things with 2007’s Parades, but that was a set neatly segued, a complete picture that revealed itself gradually across episodic tracks. Magic Chairs is their ‘pop’ record, relatively speaking; any narrative is fractured, the songs standalone, constructs shorn of company and context. As gorgeous as Alike, which follows the Danish outfit’s seductive opener, is, it marches to an independent beat. The cohesion of the past, which made Parades so magical and saw several critics acclaim it as a Funeral-beater, is absent. As such, Magic Chairs feels like a comparative regression, devolution where its makers could have soared from the heavens to realms wholly otherworldly.
But, should Parades mean nothing to you, this makes for a superb introduction to one of the world’s most uniquely-minded bands. Where other ‘indie’ acts stick a violin atop a standard-issue rock-stomper and call it an anthem, Efterklang assemble their arrangements from classical-forged fragments. The sweep of a graceful string or brass passage is as vital to the overall cohesion of a piece as the guitars and drums, which rumble and rattle in a most wonderful unison. I Was Playing Drums is one example of this astute balancing of elements, penultimate show-stopper Mirror Mirror another; elsewhere, though, things don’t play so smoothly.
But to get too hung up on exiguous imperfections is to waste words that should be used to sing this band’s praises, because they’re absolutely worthy of recognition beyond their present profile. To see them live, the core four expanded, is mesmeric. Across Magic Chairs they exhibit a singular classiness, their composure and patience immensely admirable. It contains many moments of unquestionable gorgeousness. It’s only fault, really, is that it’s not in a Parades league.
With such a precedent set, this can’t help sounding like an exercise in consolidation, albeit an enthusiastically recommended one, rather than a significant progression. It’s focused, and superbly executed, but forgoes immersive longevity for determined immediacy. --Mike Diver
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