After six years, it’s safe to say that Gothenburg’s Ef has proven to be the rare post-rock band with staying power. They’ve done so by creating a distinct sound that at one time was a blend of Efterklang and Sigur Rós, but is now unmistakably their own: guitars, horns, a light use of clear vocals (amplified on Hello Scotland Remixed) and most of all, a sense of forward propulsion. Each song seems eager to share its high moments and instrumental treasures, and the band’s studio work captures a healthy sense of Ef’s live energy.
The latest 10″ contains three songs: a solid opener (the title track), a two-part interlude (“Fem”) and a daring showstopper (“I Never Felt This Way Before”). The title piece is Ef’s autumn track, a clear counterpart to their spring showcase, “Hello Scotland”, which contains the memorable couplet city streets, late spring, where smoke covers everything. Euphoria takes less than a minute to appear, as a brief distorted beginning leaps parachute-free into a swirl of drums, guitar and horns. It’s rare to begin a song with crescendoes, but as the bumper sticker proclaims, “Life is short; eat dessert first.” A vocal passage emerges, then erupts: the hollow scenery, falling autumn leaves, beyond everything. With two minutes remaining, there’s always time for one more crescendo; oh, hell, why not make it two?
The eleven-and-a-half-minute “I Never Felt This Way Before” rises or falls on the strength of its sample, which emerges four minutes into the piece: a Michael Fassbender soliloquy from “Hunger” which twists and turns in the mind until it is fully comprehended. At first, it seems the story of a cruel act, the killing of a crippled fawn – until one listens again, and understands that the killing is both an act of mercy and a declaration of strength, a necessary act that “the other boys” refuse to do. The music and accompanying vocals dip and soar to accompany the narrative, surrounding it with focus and drive. The soliloquy works for this reviewer, although others may have mixed feelings; the danger of using such a powerful sample is that the music is nearly subsumed by the emotion of the words. In this setting, each is enhanced by the other. The listener is left drained, but given clarity. To take necessary action is to be a leader: active, not passive, essential, not peripheral. Ef has proven to be the former; any grandeur the band enjoys is well-deserved. (Richard Allen)