Music

Efterklang: Tripper

Kenneth Yu

Efterklang's otherworldly debut effort proves why the Icelandic instrumental is the classical music of the 21st century.


Efterklang

Tripper

Label: Leaf
US Release Date: 2004-11-02
UK Release Date: 2004-10-25
Amazon
iTunes

Hey there, oh cultured ones. May I ask you a question, in the hope you will answer in all honesty? This is how it goes -- do you truly, honest-to-god, enjoy classical music? Awww, do wipe that look of shame off your face. After all, confession is good for the soul. Don't feel so bad, it takes a rare breed to appreciate the genre anyway. You know, those dead 17th Century types.

The problem of classical music lies in context, I guess. The arias of Haydn, Beethoven, and Bach may be met with reverence, but it is more of a solemn respect accorded to museum artifacts rather than any actual enjoyment. As much as it pains us critics who are supposed to be residing in the realm of high culture, we simply cannot connect with the sweeping vistas and breadth of emotions that the composers-of-old intended us to travel, because we do not have the benefit of a shared history. At most, we may have an inkling of its breadth and depth due the virtuosity of the performers, perhaps exacerbated due to our extensive study of the compositions' background. Yet, there is no immediacy, no pleasure beyond that of the academic.

This is why we should be thankful for the nation of Iceland, which provides us numerous performers like Björk, Sigur Rós, and Múm who create classical music relevant for our times. This is not chamber music in the traditional sense. Instead, they meld the innermost sensibilities of classical, which are the invasion of our minds by the sheer melodic manipulation of instruments and our modern-day aesthetic of cyber-technology. The genre which I label the Icelandic instrumental is the classical symphony of our modern age, expressed in the musical language of tempered electronica where our existentialist, post-human, and spiritual selves can only understand.

Though Denmark-based Efterklang may not hail from Iceland, the Scandinavian influence is definitely found in its similar philosophy and devices of deliberate instrumentation and computer technology to create atmospherics of desolation. Incidentally, the ten-piece outfit features Sigur Rós' own Amina string quartet.

It does seem a disservice to write about the music of Efterklang on any categorical level, to divide the various overtures that comprise the tracks into meaningless sentences like "oh, that's a Rachel's sequence" exclamation in the beginning, a "Tortoise meandering" in the middle, and then concluding with a "Godspeed You Black Emperor! twist". The sequences are programmed like most conventional orchestras, with the control of the ebb and flow of the music determining my responses. However, from the classical cultural lenses I wear, I am not here to document the calculation; I am here to embody the results of said calculation

It opens with a track aptly titled "Foetus". This song epitomizes the arc that runs throughout the album, a journey involving a mind affected by the possibilities of cyber-technology and space travel, discerning the elements of metallic artifice in the music. Suddenly, actual instruments kick in, akin to a Gavin Bryars-like moment, the kind of tune doomed musicians played just before the sinking of the Titanic. Ghostly vocals emerge from a layered sheen, and the song refocuses on its electronic tricks. This is the melding of high technology and high art.

The final song "Chapter 6" (which happens to be the 10th song) is a Baroque composition processed through the digitization filter of computer technology. "G-minor in the Shell", if you will. The title itself seems to be making a statement -- even though the journey ends for now, the destination has not been reached. And no wonder, because if the possibilities of music are represented as space is the final frontier, then we have but scraped the surface. The masterful string section holds prominence here, as with most of the album, begetting a roller-coaster of conflicting emotions. It soars and soars, but then it abruptly ends, cruelly deflating whatever orgasmic intentions Efterklang has for us in the first place. An unfortunate oversight perhaps, and besides, even if it was deliberate, it denies the listener his sense of climax.

The Icelandic instrumental has few entries among the ranks, but the players in the arena have raised the bar to the point of divinity. Being mind-blowingly, ethereally beautiful isn't enough. Instead, it is merely the starting point. I am pleased to report that barring the less-than-stellar conclusion, Efterklang's debut effort does surpass these impossibly high standards. It is a worthy addition to the canon.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

With The Perfect Nothing Catalog, composer Conrad Winslow explores attention and arrangement with assistance from the Cadillac Moon Ensemble and Aaron Roche.

The album cover, in a way, tells you everything. It's simple: a cardboard box with two pieces of tape: one from the box's original packing, the other haphazardly slapped on. They imply two separate states–ordering and reordering, original state and redefined context. The Perfect Nothing Catalog, the debut recording from Alaska-born, Brooklyn-based composer Conrad Winslow, invokes this very idea of objects and ideas placed, shuffled, and replaced, provoking questions of how arrangement shapes meaning.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Film

In 'Downsizing' Shrinking Means Big Money and Bigger Problems

Matt Damon and Jason Sudeikis in Downsizing (2017) (Photo by Photo credit: Paramount Pictures - © 2017 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.) (IMDB)

Being the size of a dog's chew toy might not be to everybody's taste, but it's certainly a shortcut to a kind of upper middle-class luxury unobtainable for most of humanity.

Just imagine you're a character in Alexander Payne's circuitous and occasionally perceptive new comedy Downsizing: You were pre-med, but you dropped out of school to take care of your mother. Now you're an occupational therapist at Omaha Steaks. You and your wife are treading water both economically and in your relationship. But still, you face every day with just enough gee-whiz optimism that life never quite turns into a grind. But then, something happens. Some Swedish researchers figured out a way to shrink the average human down to a mere five inches tall without any adverse side effects. There are risks to avoid, like not leaving metal fillings in during the shrinking process (exploding heads, you know).

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image