I Just Saw: Efterklang

I Just Saw is a new series of personal essays regarding the live concert experience. Rather than our full live reviews, these will be presented without photos and will be entirely colored by the personal experience the writer had at the show.

When I first heard that Efterklang, the Copenhagen based indie band, was going to perform a show featuring their new album Piramida in collaboration with the Wordless Music Orchestra at the Metropolitan Museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, I was initially, and quite justifiably, skeptical. A Danish indie band collaborating with a contemporary chamber orchestra performing in a museum, couldn’t get more cheesy and bourgey than that, right? I remembered the abominations produced by Metallica, Kiss, Jay-Z, and Kid Rock, and shuddered at the high chance of unlistenable absurdity that was in my future. Of course, I had to go anyway, just affirm either the positive or negative outcome.

I was exceedingly pleased to find within the first three minutes that my trip would not be in vain, nor would I have to suffer the embarrassment of leaving or the pain of enduring contrived nonsense. What I found was a tastefully done performance, with an excellent adaptation of interesting and enjoyable contemporary music for an archaic, yet ever-evolving, medium. This was paired with a pleasant setting (perhaps pleasant fails to encompass my impression; the auditorium was modern, aesthetically pleasing, sported superb acoustics and accessible only through the imperious Ancient Egyptian wing) and a very well done projector show consisting primarily of abstract black and white images that fit the sounds perfectly. Efterklang was enthused, and had as their live drummer Budgie from Siouxsee and the Banshees. The orchestra was in no way a hindrance or detraction, and only added to the complexity and depth of the music.

The orchestral additions were a perfect blend of texture and ambience, describable only as a bath of warm aural stimulation, both soothing and yet invigorating at the same time. The Wordless Music Orchestra was flawless, and incidentally extremely pleasant to look at in addition to listen to. They must have been playing down; they are capable of the most complex contemporary music, but they were comfortable and enjoyed what they were doing.The orchestra is used to this sort of collaboration, having formerly performed with Japanse post-rock band MONO. The music swelled where appropriate, never took precedent over the vocal melodies, and yet made itself known with flute lines coloring gaps in the original score and violins filling the space with staccato polyrhythms–occasionally creating harsh sounds which served to add the perfect rough element to Efterklang’s clinically smooth and digestible sounds.

I commend whomever commissioned Karsten Fundal to compose orchestral music complement Efterklang’s. His style of dreamy, Debussian sound-stream fit to their specific brand of indie-pop. The one song that wasn’t an adaptation of an Efterklang song was a composition of his, and I perhaps am biased to his work, but found it to be one of the highlights of the night.

This is not in any way meant to detract from Efterklang’s contribution, they were indeed excellent as well. They are a couple of very goofy guys, and seemed a little confused by the idea of a sit down venue, but handled it quite well. No notes were missed, and they managed to convey the enthusiasm of their music with ease, dancing, enjoying themselves, and having the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. The new album sports some very cool songs, drawing subtly on African rhythms and sounds, and in this particular setting, they created music that could hold it’s own to the iconic soundtrack to The Lion King in accessibility and authenticity.

There were elements of it that tickled me, such as the choice of one back up singer to where an outfit reminiscent of Klaus Nomi, the hysterical interactions between bassist Rasmus Stolberg and drummer Budgie, and the exaggerated movements of certain other performers. So in a way, I guess I was not fully proven wrong: there were some elements that were just a little bit cheesy. But the music was phenomenal, and I fully plan on attending other shows at the Met, and now can give pop/orchestral collaborations the benefit of the doubt.