Release Date: Sep 15, 2009
Record label: Hometapes
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
"It's only a state of mind," went the tagline for Terry Gilliam's dystopian masterpiece Brazil. "Slaraffenland" is something of a state of mind, too. The word is apparently Scandinavian for "land of milk and honey," and while the Danish band of the same name is hardly all sunshine, it is indeed something of a world unto itself-- a vision of musical synthesis that borrows from any number of influences and constructs those raw materials into something new.
There’s a tendency to think of joy, especially joy expressed via music, as a kind of mindlessness. Not that stupidity and happiness necessarily go together, but that real exultation is accompanied or caused by something that makes you stop thinking, that reflection is antithetical to simple pleasure. Sex, drugs, and (a certain kind of) rock ‘n’ roll are such a revered trinity precisely because they take you out of you own self for a while, and that kind of primal thrill is often taken to be the best, truest, or most desirable kind of happiness.
There's a great deal of high-quality music currently emanating from the Northern part of Jutland and surrounding islands, commonly known as Denmark. It may very well have always been that way, but certainly in recent times the region has abounded with an array of fantastic exports, of which much is not replicated elsewhere. It may be something to do with the support the Nordic governments afford their artists, and the importance placed on them.
Slaraffenland's third album and follow-up release to their American debut, Private Cinema, finds the Danish group continuing to be perfectly engaging and pleasant -- which might be part of the problem. We're on Your Side is very much a product of its international time, a cross-border 21st century rock that is warm-sounding and understated, wide open and aiming to recapitulate little that isn't already known and felt. Harmony singing about vague emotional states of mind -- the lead single and title track's sentiments could refer to any conflict or none -- proceeds in lock step with gentle chugs of rock instrumentation tinged with flecks of experiment in a comfortable vein.
The souls of these Danes are akin to that of the dark prince of 60s pop, Scott Walker. Paul Clarke 2010 Slaraffenland’s name is regularly mentioned alongside fellow Danes Efterklang, with whom they have occasionally joined forces as Slaraffenklang. Not that there’s really much to separate the bands, anyway; both forsake a single singer for group harmonics, both have an affection for chamber music, jazz and post-rock and orchestral 60s pop, and both have investigated more pop-orientated structures on their latest albums.