LIVE: Efterklang – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 28/02/2022
This is the opening night of Efterklang’s extensive tour of the UK, Europe and North America. The very fact it is finally taking place is a cause for huge celebration and probably no little relief, not just for the band themselves but also the capacity audience, the tickets for this concert having long since sold out. The show was originally planned for January but had to be rescheduled due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Many other dates on the tour have also had to be rearranged or, in some cases, unfortunately cancelled altogether.
The band have also faced the additional difficulty of “losing” one third of their core trio, Mads Christian Brauer for the first part of this tour. Efterklang’s electronics’ wizard will be staying at home on paternity leave in the meanwhile, having recently become the proud father to a daughter. In response to this the band have “called in extra hands and cooked up a new drum and percussion heavy set” with the remaining nucleus of the band, vocalist CasperClausen and bass guitarist RasmusStolberg being joined on stage by Christian Balvig (piano, synth, tracks) Emilie Espichicoque (percussion, drums and vocal) and Øyunn (drums, percussion and vocal).
Any uncertainty the five musicians may have felt at being back on stage in front of a live audience is quickly replaced by unfettered joy, their faces wreathed in huge smiles exuding a happiness that permeates the venue for the entire set.
Given that the tour takes its name from Efterklang’s sixth studio album Windflowers – released last October – it is little surprise that the Danish experimentalists open with ‘Alien Arms’, the first track on that record, and end some ninety minutes and four stunning encores later with the album’s closer ‘Åbent Sår’. But this is far from a linear trawl through Windflowers. It is anything but, as the band take a series of seamless stylistic departures on tonight’s sonic journey alighting at various staging points in their discography as they do so.
There is the twinkling synthetic pop of ‘I Dine Øjne’ from their previous album, 2019’s Altid Sammen; ‘Black Summer’ and ‘The Ghost’ from the record that came out seven years earlier, Piramida – the former driven along its way by Emilie Espichicoque and Øyunn’s pulverising rhythms, the latter bearing witness to Casper Clausen stood on top of a sound monitor with a black cowl theatrically draped over his head. For all of the complex detail afforded this music there is an unquestionable playfulness and levity that underpins it all.
In amongst this older material there is ample space for a breathtaking reading of ‘Hold Me Close When You Can’ where the two female voices dovetail easily with the deeper resonance of Casper Clausen’s and in doing so create the most perfect of harmonies. But things really start to take off when Efterklang return after an hour for their richly deserved encores. The next thirty minutes sees the quintet shift into another sonic gear altogether through first ‘Dragonfly’ then ‘LivingOther Lives’, the delightful lapse into proto-funk with ‘Modern Drift’ before a quite staggering finale of ‘Åbent Sår’ in which all five musicians step to the front of the stage and complete a hugely entertaining and very loosely choreographed dance where they almost appear to assume the mantle of wild Scandinavian dervishes.
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