Efterklang Take Us Through Their Floral LP “Windflowers” Track by Track
The Danish trio continue their experimental streak on their sixth album.
Windflowers is the type of album that you can listen to all the way through and construct a laundry list of notes on sonic reference points from the past two decades—the exact span of time the Danish trio Efterklang have been making music together under the moniker—while remaining in their own distinct lane. Take mid-album tracks “Living Other Lives” and “Mindless Center,” for example; the former hints at a variety of Justin Vernon–involved projects, from the recent sound design experiments of Bon Iver to the soulful atmospherics of Gayngs, with a borderline trip-hop beat recalling The Notwist, while the latter track features the unlikely pairing of late-career Leonard Cohen’s somber intonations and the sprightly marimbas of Alopecia-era WHY?
Despite the distinctness of each track on Windflowers, repeated listens to the group’s sixth LP will solidify the unified vision the group had for the project in the listener’s mind, calling back to the variety of baroque-pop terrains they’ve traversed these past 20 years. Cobbled together from samples, voice memos, and glitches, and fleshed out with an impressive lineup of instruments far beyond what’s to be expected from a conventional three-piece rock band, the resulting album creates a floral soundscape that’s easy to get lost in.
With the LP dropping today, we asked the band’s Casper Clausen and Mads Brauer to share a few words about how each of the record’s nine tracks came together. Listen to the album below, and read on for their thoughts.
Casper Clausen: Originates from a short/simple sketch that I made in my studio in Lisbon in the early days of the pandemic. It started with some sketchy FM organs, wordless vocals, and the sound that begins the song and the album; a cymbal sample by Japanese band goat that I had on my sampler for a while that was just waiting to find the right song…there it was. The lyrics are embracing the unknown, surrendering to the alien sides of ourselves and the world around us.
2. “Beautiful Eclipse”
Mads Brauer: I started this song by revisiting an old glitch technique I’ve used throughout the years. I was going through the archive of recordings looking for interesting loops or sounds, and burning these sounds to CD-R. Then I took a cutting knife and made cuts into the CDs. It’s a bit of trial and error to find the right amount of cuts and how deep they should be—too much and too deep, and the CD won’t play at all; too little and it plays back just normal. But if you find the right balance, the CD player will create these wonderful digital errors and skips, and new sounds will appear out of the old sounds, like there’s a mind of its own hidden inside the CD player. I then record it back into the computer, chop it up and/or make new loops out of it, and that’s how “Beautiful Eclipse” started out.
I was playing around with a beat to go against the glitch cut-ups and then the piano chords came along. That was the foundation that Casper started singing on and the vocal melody came quite easily improvised in a few takes. Rasmus gave the bass a sort of restlessness to the groove. Casper did the string arrangement wanting to add some glamour and some drama that breaks out of the looping nature of the song. Rune nailed it so beautifully on the violin.
3. “Hold Me Close When You Can”
CC: This was a voice memo called “New Recording 14” on my phone for a long while—a string of piano chords and a vocal melody that I was playing at soundchecks and in betweens around January and February 2020, just before the pandemic rolled in. There was something about the mood, that stripped-down, ballady vibe, that we really liked, with loads of space around it. We re-recorded this song many times before we got it right, though…was quite difficult to find the balance. Something about not overdoing it with vast instrumentation, while at the same time elevating it from it’s rather banal foundation.
4. “Lady of the Rocks”
MB: We wanted to have a voiceless part on the album, a little bit of headspace. This came out of an improvisation we did as an outro for a different song that didn’t end up on the album. It was Siv on the drums, Christian on piano, Rasmus on bass, Casper singing (that we then later turned into a flute part), and I was processing the drums through effects. It’s a little “band moment” in a record that is very much a puzzle with many different pieces.
CC: Sprung out of a jammy setup in my Lisbon studio, and a vocal line going “Love isn’t meant to come in our way.” I was going to my studio pretty much every day during the first lockdown, and every day was a new story, a new setup, a new song. For “Dragonfly” I was enjoying the simplicity of a nice beat with a vocal harmonizer on top. It became one of the poppier songs in relation to the rest of the Windflowers cast—I think that’s what we all loved about it, that uplifting lightness. I re-recorded vocals, Mads tweaked a bunch of stuff, but all in all the song sounds not far off from where it started.
6. “Living Other Lives”
MB: This one Casper started in Lisbon. It’s based around a beat and a short sample of Laraaji playing the zither with brushes, and then a bass synth line. When we first worked on it together we were drawn by the raw energy of the track and added more raw sounds, like the sound of a power drill into the pickup of the bass guitar, or small bursts of distorted guitars. Pretty soon it was way too hectic and we didn’t really have a structure for the song. Casper went to Antwerp to record with Bert and Indre, and Bert played the Irish bouzouki, this very simple and repetitive riff, that gave it the push forward without it getting too busy. It was quite late in the process that the whole last section came to us, and after that it all seemed to make sense. Even the naive melody on the tin whistle.
7. “Mindless Center”
CC: We made this one together at the studio Møn in Denmark where we ended up working on the album collectively. While listening and sculpturing all the sketches we made during the first lockdown, we also tried to start something together from scratch. The studio in Møn is a former farm with loads of space, so we could set up loads of instruments—drums, bass, piano lalala…all separated—while playing together. So Mads was on a synth, Rasmus on bass, and I was on the drums upstairs. I think the first valuable thing that came up was that odd keyboard drone that you can hear in the beginning, the bass part and drumbeat that enters the song one minute in. That repetitive musical state of mind made me think of cruising down the autobahn at 6 a.m., some sort of limbo between sleep and crucial awakeness, a form of autobahn meditation.
8. “House on a Feather”
MB: This one I started in Copenhagen one day, I just played a synth chord progression and some high-building arpeggios and a little bit of rhythm. Casper sang on top of it when we met up in June, and immediately there was this image of a house on a feather in the words. It’s a slow-building song that’s just sort of going in one gentle direction. The vocoder breaks in like there’s something inhuman wanting to tell us something, but I’m not exactly sure why or what. The original synth was out of tune (because it’s an analog poly synth that needs to be tuned), but we decided to keep working around that, and that proved to be really difficult to get everything else to tune with it—except for voices, they just fit in automatically. I believe it gives it a different sonic stamp.
9. “Åbent Sår”
CC: Mads and I wrote the first part of this song in January 2020 in between the Altid Sammen tour and while being in Copenhagen together—then much later the second half evolved in a collaboration with The Field. The song looks back, but also very much forward…it was so exciting to give this song to someone like Axel [Willner, a.k.a The Field] that we all really admire, and to experience how the song returned like some kind of alien, something we could have never come up with ourselves, at the same time really love so much. Would be fun to do more collabs like this in the future.