Slaraffenland - We're on Your Side

by Rich Morris Rating:5 Release Date:2010-04-12

'Long Gone' the first track on this album by Copenhagen's Slaraffenland (translation: land of milk and honey) is a determinedly uplifting affair. With it's plangent piano chords and exhorting vocals, its almost like a Coldplay single, but the tricksy time signatures and constantly shifting dynamics tell the listener there's something more going on here. The gentle, optimistic reed instrumentation which closes the song is a lovely moment, but is one of the few times simple beauty is allowed to break free and shine on the album. Ultimately, and unfortunately, this first track is revealed as something of a red herring.

We're on Your Side is a hard album to figure out. The skittering percussion and lowing choirs of songs like 'Meet and Greet' recall Efterklang, another Copenhagen group (and with good reason: Slaraffenland have collaborated with their fellow countrymen in the past to form a supergroup by the name of Slaraffenklang). However, Slaraffenland's sound is less electronic, varied and experimental than Efterklang. Instead the folksy likes of 'Too Late to Think' and 'Hunting' are dragged into a dirge by the often unwavering tone of the vocals and the reed and brass instruments.

It's a shame because there are so many interesting moments and sounds on We're on Your Side. The mix of acoustic finger-picking and brass with what sounds like outbursts of radio static and a malfunctioning hip hop beat is initially arresting, as are the buzzing, shimmering guitar sounds which open 'The Right Place' and 'Falling Out'. These moments are fleeting, however. The main issue is those froggy, dreary, incessant voices. On 'Falling Out' closing track 'Away', they seem to be actively doing their best to ruin the good stuff going on behind them.

When the voice leave the scene for a while, as on the Polar Bear-like 'Open Your Eyes', things improve immediately. But they're never gone for long. Slaraffenland's first two self-released albums were instrumental and, on this evidence, you have to wonder what possessed them to deviate from that. A version of We're on Your Side minus the vocals would be a very pleasant listen.

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