Prepare to be left breathless.
Mike Diver 2009-10-16
The popularity in recent years of All Tomorrow’s Parties’ Don’t Look Back series of shows, where artists are invited to perform an album from their catalogue in full (surely ‘Do Look Back’ would be a more appropriate banner?), has encouraged a number of bands to independently resurrect key records in their career. But while many have successfully reminded their audience of the importance of their best work, few have revisited their material with the orchestral elegance and affecting tenderness of Danish collective Efterklang.
Performing Parades is literally what it says it is on the cover: the band captured live, supported by the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, performing their celebrated Parades album of 2007 in full. This recording dates from September 2008, the show held at Copenhagen’s DR Koncerthuset, but since then the band has taken their strings-and-choir-bolstered take on the album to other territories – they play(ed) London’s Barbican in October 2009. The skittering electronics of the studio album remain, but traditional instrumentation dominates this set, the assembled orchestra complementing the original arrangements superbly.
It helps to know the songs before coming to this recording – those with no past experience of Efterklang, very much a band whose engrossing otherworldliness doesn’t connect immediately, may be left cold. But listeners of an open mind, and with plenty of patience, will reap some serenely captivating rewards. Sequenced in the same order as its source album, Performing Parades is a wonderful companion piece to a record that, really, still hasn’t received the accolades it deserves. Perhaps the group’s forthcoming third album, one that sees them move from Leaf to 4AD, will stir newcomers into exploring their recommended catalogue.
The sound quality is crisp throughout – indeed, the only suggestion you’re listening to a live album comes when brief flurries of applause bridge the songs – and the woozy, romantic atmosphere of Parades is perfectly conveyed. Him Poe Poe’s stirring choral vocals, the haunting horns of Frida Found a Friend, the theatrics of Caravan – every standout moment of Parades is elevated by the contribution of so many musicians completely in tune with one another.
Included is a DVD of the set, but really: if the opportunity arises, see this collaboration in the flesh. If Performing Parades is an accurate document of what to expect, then prepare to be left breathless.