By: Jake Murray
Liima | website | facebook | twitter |
Support: John Bence | website
Village Underground, London | June 15, 2015
It came as quite the shock in 2011 when Efterklang’s long-term drummer & trumpet player, Thomas Husmer, announced his resignation. After more than 10 years contributing to every major release up to that point, it was hard to imagine how they would continue without him… but they did. Piramida, the following year, was a great album. It wasn’t quite as great as Magic Chairs (which was truly phenomenal), but that’s to be expected after losing a limb. Then three years passed until, tonight, on-stage at The Village Underground in London, Caspar Clausen says “We’re Liima, and that’s mainly because of this guy right here: Tatu Rönkkö… from Finland!”
We’re amassed in this cavernous brick-house, drinking expensive beer, waiting for the opening act to begin. Young-blood emerging artist John Bence is the only support tonight, and recently noted as the newest signing to Nicolas Jaar’s label, Other People. Bence’s debut EP Disquiet is a series of three movements based around manipulated operatic vocal samples and ambient layering, not dissimilar to long-time ambient weirdos loveliescrushing.
The crowd turnout is surprisingly punctual, with equal weights anticipation and uncertainty ahead of the two unprecedented performances about to take place. As Bence emerges onto the stage, in almost complete darkness, it seems the crowd aren’t alone in the emotional duality, as he hides behind an enormous cloth-covered table and jitters with excited, nervous energy while tinkering with some obscure device lighting his face. As the same operatic vocal samples of Disquiet begin to swell into the room, smoke forms a heavy opaque blanket above Bence and white lights begin to shine through, forming conical tunnel-like structures. It’s deeply fitting as for the most part of the set, rather than directly performing his EP from beginning to end, John Bence is attempting a cover of The London Underground’s Victoria Line. Ambient, reverberant music will always be difficult in a larger space, especially one such as The Village Underground, which let’s face it doesn’t sound great. Where Disquiet is clear and has form, John Bence’s set is bewildering and alienating. People lose interest, some giggle nervously, some just take photos of the incredible lights [seriously, kudos to the tech] and others head to the bar. For the minority who are truly engaged with Bence’s set it is an intensely focussed experience, but for others that can’t hear it or don’t get it, that “NO REENTRY” sign has become a real nuisance.
The room packs up significantly in the changeover and when Liima walk on the response is mutually joyous and enthusiastic on both sides of the stage. The entire set is comprised of new unreleased material Clausen explains later in the set “We’re playing this tour to test out all this music, so it’s kind of like you’re in our rehearsal room.” It certainly doesn’t sound like a rehearsal room. Liima are practically meticulous, disciplined in their actions and extremely tight. They never play too loud, they never miss a beat or a cue, and if something is ever off from how they’ve intended to perform it, you can’t tell. It’s actually extremely refreshing to attend a gig of well-known performers and to not recognise or pin down what they’re performing; you’re left purely as a fresh-eyed spectator, open-minded and ready to enjoy the wonder… like a cinema trip with your parents as a child. So, naturally you can imagine how long it took after digging through Soundcloud, to make certain that the band opened with a song called ‘513’. ‘513’, like much of the earlier part of the set is something like a conversation between In Rainbows-era Radiohead and The Notwist; the music is colourful and spattered with bloops, it’s friendly and enjoyable, but never fucking twee.
Rönkkö’s contribution to what would otherwise be Efterklang truly is noteworthy in the performance. Efterklang has always tickled the line of electronic and organic, teetering either side of the line carefully, but now with Rönkkö that pendulum swings with far more intention and far greater expression. He fits comfortably on stage with them (they all look very comfortable in fact), bringing his own great stage presence to match Clausen’s and a true virtuosity to all things percussive.
As Liima move on through their set, as does the tone. What started as fun and accessible evolves into deeply experimental, with all sorts of vocal processing and electronic mayhem. It has to be said that listening to Caspar Clausen’s voice through so many harmoniser and vocoder sounds is initially a little bit taboo, having always opted for extremely clear and clean vocals in recordings, but this is so remarkable and befitting that it’s just stunning to observe. ’Woods’ marks another turning point later into the performance as it crescendos with deep roaring bass and fluttering percussion, just to fall away into a solo piano and vocal. But Liima don’t want to leave it there. The atmosphere rises again, the percussion picks up and the bass becomes heavier and heavier. What once sounded like a dialogue between Radiohead and The Notwist has become much more like Atoms For Peace being chewed up and spat out by The Haxan Cloak. It’s fucking perfection.
If Liima read this, and I hope they do, allow me to just say one thing: Make a fucking album already because that was incredible. I have been a devout fan since Parades, seen them evolve through many turns, but never in all those years has their music sounded so relevant and poignant. The name Efterklang, I’m told, comes from the words “remembrance” and “reverb” so why not leave it at that? Continue with this path to the future, because the future looks supernova for Liima.