The souls of these Danes are akin to that of the dark prince of 60s pop, Scott Walker.
Paul Clarke 2010-04-15
Slaraffenland’s name is regularly mentioned alongside fellow Danes Efterklang, with whom they have occasionally joined forces as Slaraffenklang. Not that there’s really much to separate the bands, anyway; both forsake a single singer for group harmonics, both have an affection for chamber music, jazz and post-rock and orchestral 60s pop, and both have investigated more pop-orientated structures on their latest albums.
Yet although Slaraffenland have progressed further from their own experimental beginnings than Efterklang – We’re On Your Side being only their second album to feature vocals after 2007’s Private Cinema followed two purely instrumental affairs – they have taken a different route to Efterklang’s Magic Chairs. Whilst Efterklang’s vocals are often just dreamy wordless refrains, Slaraffenland expose their own aching hearts with less artifice and more honesty.
The layers of singing and instrumentation in tracks like the opening Long Gone might recall a ramshackle version of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, but the soul is more akin to that darker prince of 60s pop, Scott Walker. The band sing “maybe we’ve lost our way” in The Right Place, with a similar refrain (“I’ve lost my head”) emerging at the beginning of Falling Out, before the song becomes overwhelmed with guitar feedback and a beautiful but piercing trumpet line. Last track, Open, begins with the band singing “happy new year / it is time to face our fear” over drunken handclaps, piano and sombre brass, sounding like a particularly sorry end to Hogmanay rather than an optimistic fresh start.
In this sense, they have more in common with Alcoholic Faith Mission, another Danish band who also sounded like a fuzzy-headed hangover on their recent Let This Be the Last Night We Care LP. Yet despite the melancholy mood, We’re On Your Side is far from depressing. Slaraffenland possess a wistfully melodic knack akin to The Beach Boys if they’d never managed to get off the Sloop John B, and there is much to admire in the multi-faceted arrangements. Slaraffenland might sound burdened with regrets, but making We’re On Your Side shouldn’t be one of them.