fri 20/10/2017

Efterklang with the Northern Sinfonia/John Grant, Barbican | reviews, news & interviews

Efterklang with the Northern Sinfonia/John Grant, Barbican

Efterklang with the Northern Sinfonia/John Grant, Barbican

Beguiling orchestral collaboration, and a taste of things to come from the 'Queen of Denmark' man

The Northern Sinfonia with Efterklang singer Casper Clausen out frontPK4 Images

It’s not quite Iggy Pop strutting across the hands of the crowd, but Efterklang’s singer Casper Clausen's departure from the stage reinforces the bond the Danish mood musicians have with their fans. Trying to keep upright while wobbling on the backs of seats, he is held in position by those close by. This isn’t about attracting attention, but a bridging of the gap between artist and audience. Earlier, Clausen and bassist Rasmus Stolberg had retired to the side of the stage to take in the Northern Sinfonia’s performance of their music. At times, Efterklang are as much spectator as musicians.

Last night was the final date of their tour with the Northern Sinfonia, an evening where all-but-one (“Dreams Today”) of the songs from the their recent album Piramida were performed in order. The studio versions are hymnal, rolling creations rooted in the band’s fondness for building from rhythm. Live, the addition of strings, brass and a fluttering vocal trio fleshed out the songs to a surprising degree. The combination of French horn, trombone and trumpet with stabs of sighing, wordless vocal on “Apples” brought new texture and depth. Inevitably, the new arrangements (by either Karsten Fundall or Missy Mazzoli) gave rise to thoughts of what Piramida would be like if recorded now.

Verses that echoed the feel of Township chants on the album were liltingly Hawaiian

The orchestrations conveyed more than the song’s plasticity. With former Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer Budgie on board live, rhythms became more exotic, edging towards the Gamelan. Verses that echoed the feel of Township chants on the album were liltingly Hawaiian. In the new context, Clausen’s intimate, conversational voice recalled David Sylvian. During “Between the Walls” his whoop cast him as a restrained Curtis Mayfield.

Although their encore looked back with “Monopolist”, from the Tripper album, and “Modern Drift”, from Piramida's predecessor Magic Chairs, this show was all about now. Yet it also laid bare the conundrum Efterklang juggle with. Restless experimentalists, with roots in glitchey electronica, they’ve always married the digital and organic. This wasn’t their first collaboration with classical musicians. Piramida was built from field recordings which were then processed by the band's Mads Brauer. But in this live incarnation, the building blocks didn’t matter. It’s not too far fetched to imagine their next album taking the orchestral as the starting point.

While Efterklang were presenting their recent album, John Grant, their support act, was looking towards his next. His last, Queen of Denmark, was an acclaimed landmark in acute emotional observation and, on the evidence of the new songs aired at the Barbican, his Iceland-recorded follow-up will pack at least as strong a punch. The new “Glacier” declared “this pain is a glacier moving through you, carving out deep valleys and creating spectacular landscapes”. An tantalising taster of things to come.

For Efterklang though, this concert pivoted on the Mahler-esque, Karsten Fundal-penned (and non-album) instrumental “VÆLV”, which broke Piramida in half. As that faded, as the album’s “Ghost” began, Clausen’s nervousness melted away and the concert became the communion which inspired him to leave the stage. In making that bond, it became clear Efterklang could reach out to mass audiences as Arcade Fire have. But their constant search for new ways to frame their music means that’s on hold for now.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

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