Efterklang – Magic Chairs (4AD), 22/02/10
February 23, 2010 by Joe Morrison
Album opener ‘Modern Drift’ could no doubt end up as anyone’s favourite song of 2010, a sumptuous, elegant and majestic track, it’s a near perfect high to open Efterklang’s third studio effort, ’Magic Chair’.
An almost classical opening of keys and strings is interspersed with provocative drum snares, that after leaving, return to such aplomb I haven’t heard the like since Arcade Fire’s ‘Haiti’. They rumble under towering strings and neatly placed horns and glockenspiels, and other subtly charming orchestration.
But a track does not an album make. After their critically lauded second album ’Parades’ (Incidentally described as a potential Arcade Fire ‘Funeral’ beater) it was difficult to see if Efterklang could produce something as magical – even a ‘Neon Bible‘. They’ve certainly tried, but it’s not all plain sailing.
The dizzy heights of Modern drift is hard to recapture. That’s not to say there aren’t some decent recordings here. Second song ‘Alike’ is, well, alike to the first but sped up a bit. ‘I Was Playing Drums’ follows. A pleasant number which rekindles some Arcade Fire connections, starting like a stark ‘Bad Wave‘ off of Neon Bible before it introduces some more experimental ticks and ends a more mellow yet bouncy highlight.
Sadly, in parts the album is painting by numbers, sometimes falling into Magic Numbers territory. The forgettable trio of ‘Harmonics’ ‘Full Moon’ and ‘Soft Beating’, as pleasant sounding as they are, could easily be passed off as the same track, and album closer ‘Natural Tune’ is close to being classed with them if it weren’t saved by it’s soft accretion to it’s uplifting finale.
The lively ‘Raincoats’ or Sigur ros meets Yeasayer ‘Scandinavian Love’ both delight, and are the closest tracks to the album’s great opener. The former adding welcome drama and the latter going one step further than flirting with experimentalism, reminiscent of Architecture In Helsinki.
Magic Chair needs more then just Modern Drift to elevate Efterklang to public consciousness, because if they were to be then ’Parades’ could have done so already. But nonetheless it’s a solid, graceful album, and with Modern Drift included, that will just do fine.