the southernmost of the scandanavians rocked a double bill for the danish dynamite tour at the knit wednesday night, and it's hard to say who was more excited about it, us or them. it was the first show in new york for both tourmates slaraffenland and efterklang, whose lead singer blushed and earnestly thanked the crowd after every song. the bands seemed to almost be overcome by the occasion, but rose to it instead and left the crowd chanting for more.
slaraffenland has been getting lots of internet love, and they were certainly dressed for success in adorable matching t-shirts. even reduced from a quintet to a quartet (their drummer had to return home to look after his newborn), they played with confidence and even a bit of a swagger. to be honest, they might even have upstaged efterklang a bit. though musically similar to their more sprawling cousins (after all, slaraffenland and efterklang share a member), slaraffenland relocates efterklang's delicate compositions and channels them through some serious mogwai-esque transcendentalism, epitomized by set highlight "you win." and i wish i could remember the song that caused one member to jump into the crowd and distribute tambourines and maracas, because it rocked. their new album private cinema sounds a little less unique than their show attested, which is a shame. slaraffenland were great live and not least of all thanks to their constant instrumental tag-teaming, switching seamlessly from winds and brass to guitars and drums. even more impressive was their rhythmic dexterity, playing with time signatures more likely to be heard at bang on a can, which was even more impressive because they were playing without their drummer! in terms of energy, they definitely outranked efterklang, but for beauty, serenity, and diligence, not to mention crowd enthusiasm, efterklang was the clear favorite.
i find it's often hard for bands to translate album flourishes to a live setting, but efterklang nailed every nuance, no mean feat when your songs contain multiple xylophone solos. they had a full band and a half, complete with standard guitar, bass, and drums, and bolstered by a dedicated trombone, keys, synths, violin, and other percussions tchatchkas. kudos definitely go to efterklang's soundman christian thomsen for the great sound, though he's had a lot of practice, mixing the band since their first ever show. despite their overwhelming array of instrumental possibilities, efterklang remained mostly true-to-record, though i experienced no small thrill in watching their complex melodies be born from scratch. as with slaraffenland, a lot of joy came from watching the possibilities of each instrument develop as a song progressed, whether punctuated by a trumpet solo from drummer thomas husmer (as violinist peter broderick manned the drum kit) or a gentle tune from the recorder played by electronics expert mads brauer. as far as i could tell, the set was widely drawn from efterklang's recorded works, and included the live giveaway "mirror mirror," which was awesome. new singles "mirador" and "caravan" (which just had its own video made) were met with cheers, though it was quickly apparent that their bashfulness evoked just as many hollers as their songs (they were super adorable). for some unclear, yet wonderful reason, the whole band was dressed in white collared shirts and jodhpurs, often accentuated by suspenders. somehow, it lent an air of sincerity to the show, which is often missing from live performances. for most of us, it was another show in a week full of them, but it was great to see both efterklang and slaraffenland taking it so seriously. if they came to impress us, they certainly did a good job of it. when they returned to the stage for their well-deserved encore it was with slaraffenland and chris from labelmate grizzly bear, who nobly rocked the tambourine as a quartet of winds stole the number. the worst part of the evening was the disappointed uproar that signaled efterklang's decision to not do a second encore. here's hoping they will both be back soon!