Efterklang: Tripper

While the literal translation of 'Efterklang' is 'after noise' (and thus 'reverberation'), the term more loosely translates as 'remembrance,' a more fitting meaning given the yearning character of the Copenhagen group's sound. Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen, and Rasmus Stolberg formed Efterklang in 2001 and, augmented by Rune Mølgaard Fonseca's piano and Thomas Kirirath Husmer's percussion, released the EP Springer on the group's own Rumraket label; Efterklang has since expanded to include trumpeter Nils Karlsson, trombonist Kristina Schjelde, and Hildur Ársælsdóttir and Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir from Iceland's Amina string quartet. Tripper, the EP's auspicious successor, adds guest vocalists and choirs to that ensemble for this large-scale, through-composed work. If this description revives disturbing memories of bloated prog spectacles of yore, relax because Efterklang exercises judicious restraint in its handling of said elements. Tripper strains to match the kind of grandeur associated with Sigur Rós's Agætis byrjun; if doesn't quite reach that level, it comes close.

The album is consistently excellent and best broached as a complete fifty-minute work, given the connecting threads that run throughout. Aside from an overall uniformity of sound, motifs like an Ovalesque rippling pattern (made more memorable by a subtle hiccup) and electric piano sprinkles intermittently re-appear. The group deftly merges digital and organic sounds, with electronics mainly used as a base for natural sounds (vocals, piano, trumpet, strings). Much like a requiem, the mood is mournful, even funereal, and the work includes passages one could label classical and minimalist.

It takes mere moments for the album's sound to crystallize. In the opener “Foetus,” glitchy crackle and synth atmospheres give way to gentle electric piano playing, followed by lush strings and a choir. While such a grand opening establishes Tripper's orchestral sweep, the rustic harmonium that follows dismisses any taint of pretension. As stated, the album is best confronted as a whole yet individual tracks deserve mention, “Collecting Shields” a case in point. In an arrangement that finds choir singing merged with clanking beats and clicking patterns, what stands out most of all is a boy's haunting tenor heard behind the hushed vocals of Linda Drejer Bonde and Thomas Sjöberg.

Tripper's primary influences are Múm and Sigur Rós, but traces of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Arvo Pärt can be heard too. The album's rackety, rumbling drum beats will be familiar to fans of Finally We Are No One, “Doppelgänger” replicates Sigur Rós's signature bowed guitar, and the piano repetitions in “Collecting Shields” suggest Glass. Like Reich's Tehillim, Tripper builds upon interwoven layers of syncopated voice and instrument patterns. Don't conclude that derivativeness reduces the album to pastiche as its formidable compositional strengths more than compensate; bearing in mind that it's the group's full-length debut, Tripper impresses as a remarkably poised and accomplished work.

November 2004