Always Together: Efterklang's Bold Return

Always Together: Efterklang's Bold Return

Casper Clausen on the long, winding path to their new album...

It has been seven years since Efterklang released their critically acclaimed fourth album ‘Piramida’. At the time “a break from the album and touring routine” and a need for “a ritual” were cited as reasons. But it also seemed as if one chapter was coming to an end and a new one was about to begin.

This year’s album release from the inventive Danish band is a perfect return after a break from the day job. It has been a hectic time and each band member has been as busy, if not even busier than before.

Casper Clausen, Mads Christian Brauer and Rasmus Stolberg’s fifth studio album ‘Altid Sammen’ (Always Together) represents their finest work to date. Bold, ambitious, intimate and personal it uses some of the experimentation that has been a part of their sound since their debut ‘Tripper’ from 2004. Only this time they show a more earthbound side than previously.

Efterklang’s recognisable acoustic and electronic sonics are closely interspersed, to understand how one works with the other remains a genuine puzzle of sorts. As accomplished as ever the current album represents a place where sounds from the baroque and digital eras come together, mesmeric harmonies are formed and new sounds are created.

Enjoying the fine weather and friendly people of Portugal, Casper Clausen has spent the last three years in Lisbon. Clash caught up with the frontman to hear about the work and thoughts behind the latest sound project, and how the imaginative trio chose to spend the last seven years. 

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Efterklang took a break from conventional band duties. What has everyone been up to during that time?

Two records were made under the name Liima with Efterklang’s live drummer. We also started The Lake Radio, it is now a successful station involving a lot of people. We made an opera in collaboration with Karsten Fundal, a classical composer.

But ultimately for us, the focus continues to be sonic art installation, radio, music and sound in the widest sense. I have been working on some solo material here in Lisbon, I’ve been recording some duets and other studio projects involving collaborators.

Mads has been doing more opera work, and he worked on Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’. We have literally been doing all sorts of projects although any activities refer back to the starting point we all share.

Efterklang sing in Danish. Your music is admired around the globe. It must have been an interesting goal to achieve.

We have always felt part of a bigger more global music scene than just a Danish one. It has always been like that. I am a fan of all sorts of music that isn’t necessarily sung in English. It might come from Morocco or from Thailand, there is just so much fantastic music out there. But I understand it is an ambitious thing to achieve and somehow we have been very lucky that people we have worked with and our fans have been so open to what we do. 

We believe that the wider appeal of music is not just about whether something is sung in Danish or Japanese, and we believe that people are attracted to music on a more overall level. Your music is often associated with great ambition and big ideas.

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Where does all that come from?

We enjoy lots of action and ideas, we all have that in common, that’s always been our starting point. It’s about exploring whatever triggers something in us and where the adventure is to be found. Sometimes it’s big, but because something’s massive doesn’t mean it’s good, and a small intimate show can be as rewarding as a concert with a full orchestra.

There is an authentic, intimate vibe on ‘Altid Sammen’, is this what you alluded to?

Yes. So much effort has gone into identifying a core between other people and between ourselves. We tried to establish where our curiosity really is. It has been about taking a step back, assess strengths and weaknesses and take a more emotional approach. It is a huge achievement.

What are your thoughts on the release now?

I feel really good about it, thanks. We are proud of it and extremely happy with the process. It’s so easy to have mixed emotions when your album comes out, and we put so much into it, but it’s been a smooth release process.

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Is it less experimental than some of your previous releases?

I don’t feel it’s experimental. I mean there is a lot of experimentation behind it all, but I view it as one of our most accessible records. To be honest, there are no strange soundscapes, and there isn’t much electronic glitz. We have tried to create a comfortable space, that has been our goal.

I continue to sing in Danish, and we have tried to create more space for the voice. The songs had to exist in their own right, so listeners who don’t understand Danish can still relate to our music. That is the balance we aimed to achieve.

You worked with Baroque Orchestration X from Belgium (B.O.X). How did the collaboration come about? 

They invited us to Antwerp in 2017 where we met the ensemble director. He has been a fan of Efterklang for some time and was keen to work with us. The ensemble is based on the idea of using old Baroque instruments in contemporary songwriting and composition.

At the time we saw it as an experiment and we were keen to work with the old instruments. Everyone was generous and looked after us well. We spent a week in Antwerp, familiarised us with the instruments and met the people, they are proud of Antwerp and showed us around.

Mads and I started to write music in Lisbon and the collaboration began. We knew there was an album to be made. It must have felt different to previous projects.

Did everything seem entirely natural?

Everything seemed to work and their style really suited our music. We embrace a wide spectrum of sound, they had instruments we had never worked with before. They were flexible and let us pick the instruments we wanted. They gave us the most magnificent players, and we just had an amazing time.

We learnt about baroque and the style of writing. It’s more open and free, it’s more comparable to jazz where there is freedom to ornament and less is written down. The whole process was organic.

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What was the recording process like?

We recorded at Jet Studios in Brussels where we did a live recording of the songs. We invited Danish composer Kasper Winding, he is gifted and coproduced the songs.

We recorded seven songs with B.O.X before going to Copenhagen where we wrote the rest of the material and collaborated with ex-Sigor Ros Kjartan Sveinsson and recorded drums and vocals. We also recorded a choir on Iceland.

That is a remarkable number of collaborations and locations…

It is typical of Efterklang, it is our way of doing things. Very rarely do we work in isolation, and we thrive when we collaborate and involve lots of different people. That is our style.

What sort of approaches did you take in the studio?

It differed a lot. It all depended on who it was, and what we were after. Sometimes, there isn’t much openness but this time we worked directly with everyone. Many were strong personalities, and we didn’t just want them to sit and play a melody, there was a need for flexibility and for them to feel free to include their ideas and styles.

Towards the end we picked the best takes, it was important to select the best baroque and choir moments, and we made sure everything was polished. We went to the Basque Country to mix.

Do you already have plans for the immediate future? What’s next?

We already have loads of plans. We will be playing lots of live shows over the next year. We are also planning a new EP release. The EP will comprise some of the music we have made in addition to the songs on the current album. We’ve been in the studio to record with a girl choir from southern Jutland, so they are going to be involved.

There will be some announcements soon. It feels like a great time to be making music, it makes sense to make more while we’re at it anyway.

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‘Altid Sammen’ is out now on 4AD.

Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Rasmus Weng Karlsen

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