Reductionism is alive and well in music, and nowhere is this more evident and apparent than on Parades, the most basic electronica record ever made. Incredibly, however, the album is never boring or tedious; it just lacks the pop sensibility that many post-electronic bands exemplify. Parades contains a glut of musical directions, not all of which work. But too many ideas are always better than not enough.
An ensemble of five musicians hailing from Copenhagen, Efterklang’s mindset is rooted in classical music. It bears many similarities to the music of minimalist composers like Steve Reich and John Cage, with compositions centered around seemingly infinite variations on one melody. Instruments and sounds seem to clash by chance, flowing in and out rhythmically over the beautiful vocals of Casper Clausen. Violin and clarinet melodies are also present, but rather than a gimmick, these are not at the center of attention. It’s a musical Tempur-Pedic—soft, firm, and Germanic.
As the legendary blues singer Rickie Lee Jones once said, you can’t break the rules until you know what they are. On Parades, Efterklang has broken seemingly every rule of entertaining pop music, yet all it takes to turn what could have been self-indulgent crap into a beautiful piece of pop is talent and a knowing wink. Parades is difficult to listen to, but its richness and subtlety is rare in electronica nowadays. It’s a wonderful study in the power of serendipity and chance in art.