I found myself with a bit of a challenge on my hands. Before Efterklang took to the stage they were showing a film. I can just about pass myself of as a gig-reviewer, but movie reviews are an entirely different beast. A daunting one too on this website, what with the excellent Flick Flak strand.
So here we go. An Island is a 50 minute film directed by Vincent Moon and is eventually revealed to be a biography of sorts of the band Efterklang. 'Of sorts' are the operative words here as it is far more ambiguous and ambitious than something you’ll find on VH1 as it also covers the island of Als, from where the band originate, and the people of the Island.
The film communicates through non-linear and non-verbal techniques, often employing a muted colour palette, close-ups and a shallow depth of field as allegories of island life, of the isolation and of the closeness it breeds. This sense of closeness and community becomes more directly apparent towards the end of the film, with a couple of straightforward performances involving audience participation.
I feel the film was more successful in the first half, before the detached voice-over began, where more abstruse methods were used, especially where the band “play” the island, thwacking objects and recording raindrops and constructing it into a montage piece of some beauty. This openness to interpretation sits well with the band, as it accurately reflects and reinforces their esoteric sound.
In all the film was a beguiling success and I like the idea of a film as a support act (no chance of being upstaged by the band on before you there). As an aside I also enjoyed the strange feeling of being in a full-but-silent gig venue, with people sitting on the floor. It was certainly different.
Eventually Efterklang took to the stage in person and seemed genuinely glad to be there. It could be construed that on solely viewing the film, the band may be somewhat aloof, but they came across as just really nice people and appeared genuinely touched by the reception of the film (Cardiff was the first place they showed the film before playing a gig).
To pin down the Danish band’s sound is a futile task as it flutters from alt rock to folk to electronica, via guitars, violins, flutes and triggered samples. What with seven members on stage, the use of the stirring collective voice, a small string section and additional drumming during peaks, it is tempting to fall into that great trap of noughties music criticism and compare them to Arcade Fire. Efterklang’s sound though is far more experimental and less anthemic, yet no less beautiful than the Montreal band.
The set splintered off on many post-rock tangents, at times sounding like Four Tet and at others like local heroes Islet. Yet it wasn’t wilfully difficult and it certainly wasn’t dull as the set was perfectly paced.
It was a mesmeric hour or so of swooping and swirling music, of tenderness and delicateness and of an overwhelming feeling of connectedness and community. And there were some cracking moustaches on display. They were rapturously received at the end.
Sadly after this tour the band will be taking a break from the road, but hopefully the good people at Swn will get straight on the blower and get them back over the bridge at the first hint of new shows. But you can see An Island at Chapter on March 9th.