Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
The first four minutes of Vincent Moon and Efterklang's film "An Island" pass with nary a word, just the close-up profiles of various people traveling across a sea. You're not entirely sure how far they're going, but it appears that the destination is far enough away that you might not be able to see it from your launching point. The day when this transporting of silent souls happened, the sky was threatening rain. They didn't feel like empty threats, either, but the ones that you take to heart, you put your hood up and you pull in tighter. The water was choppy and unhappy looking, causing vacant and blackened angles across the undulating surface.
It felt like a long four minutes. The kind of four minutes that gets anyone asking if they're there yet, how much longer, but before the impatience could come out, the island of Als - off the Danish coast -- comes into view and the motor on the vessel starts cutting into the audio mix in louder spurts. You sense that you're almost where you want to be. The island itself, framed this way, feels like some magical place that has to be lucked into in order to return to it, like some map's hidden passage way has to be flung open and, just like that, there it is, visible just long enough to hop on it, to deboard just before it becomes invisible again. It seems obvious that three of the members of Efterklang would have grown up in such a place. It appears immediately to be bursting with beauty - even in dreary and wet conditions - all the while instilled with a sense of imprisonment, because if there are two things that you are if you grow up on the island of Als they are that you're lucky and that you're absolutely stuck, for the most part.
The music that singer Casper Clausen, Rasmus Stolberg, Mads Brauer, Thomas Husmer and an assorted cadre of friends make is literally the civil war between those feelings, whether it's too obvious or not. It's a lot like having one of the prettiest views that anyone has, but realizing that you're still stuck on the other side of the view, the other side of the window and there's nothing that will change that. It's a curse and a blessing, that view and on any given day it either tastes like the salt or like the sugar that it is. Clausen writes with the weight of human strife on his mind, but what we find in this gorgeous film, is that he writes even more so for those things that can't be predicted or counted on. He writes in the off-chance that he'll get to see some of those twinkling eyes or beaming smiles of elementary school kids as they sing his sometimes sad, but mildly uplifting words. It's hard not to be moved like that.
We see that he lives for the kinds of strange, but profound moments such as the one where he takes a transistor radio out into the forest, shuffling between channels before he lands on one broadcasting a piece on the violin, marvelously clear and touching - out there in the middle of nothing. He'd love for his songs to be those picked up on pocket radios in the middle of the harshest of winters, or in a place that's been abandoned more than any other place has ever been abandoned. There's one body still holding on, holding on for dear life. For what, they're not entirely sure, but they're holding on and they need someone to sing for them.
Efterklang Official Site
An Island Official Site