Amelia’s Magazine | Efterklang – The Asylum, Birmingham – Live Review

This year the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer Of The Year 2009 graces the walls of the Natural History Museum for another year and it’s safe to say this is one exhibition that cannot be missed. Owned by the museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, view the competition is one that prides itself on exposing and celebrating the diversity of life on the planet.

The room dedicated to this exhibiton is dimly lit and you discover that this is to make way for the photographs themselves. Each one is displayed on a screen, cialis 40mg illuminated from behind so that they stand as
The competiton is divided into categories, first showing the winner and then a selection of those that are highly recommended.

Under the heading of ‘Urban and Garden Wildlife’ I find the corresponding winner to be something of a stroke of genius. The entries are required to be poignant, beautiful or striking comopositions of wild animals or plants in urban or suburban settings. The judges look for uncommonly good images of common subjects. It’s easy to see why ‘Respect’ by Igor Shilpenok (Russia) was the judges’ favourite. The centre of the photo is a stage for a stand off – one small domestic cat against a considerably bigger wild fox. This is one cat that clearly has a ________ complex. There’s something quite triumphant about this scene. You feel a sense of jubilation in his victory over the intruder. Shilpenok was working as a ranger in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve in Kamchatka, Russia with his cat Ryska for company. He comments that, “One day Ryska, protecting me, ran to attack an approaching fox. The fox bottled it and Ryska instantly earned respect from the foxes – and me”.

In this exhibition, it’s not only the animals that are showcased – there are also categories committed to the plant kingdom. ‘Wild Places’ presents photographs that must show scenes that are wild and awe-inspiring. The judges look for beautiful light, a true feeling of wilderness and a sense of awe. The photograph of ‘The Fountain Of Ice’ by Floris Van Breugel is one that doesn’t quite register at first. It’s easy to read it as a digitally manipulated image and even after a closer glance it’s hard not see it in this way. Had I not known it’s origin, it could just be another picture in the same vein as other framed waterfall paintings found hung on the walls of a garishly decorated Seventies living room. But what makes this all the more impressive is that this is, without question, a completely bona fide photograph. Taken in the Bailey Range in Olympic National Park, Washington, is a challenging route with few trails. Scrambling and rock-climbing with a heavy pack, Floris was forced to stop short of his destination. But that didn’t matter, because close to where he camped, he discovered this miniature gem of an ice-cave and waterfall. The ice had melted to the thickness that allowed just the right amount of light to filter through and produce an otherworldly blue, illuminating the waterfall and waterside plants.
Last week a group of 21 activists from around the country stormed Didcot Power Station in an awe inspiring action that managed to force the power company to switch from burning coal to gas, ampoule a much cleaner power source, price dramatically reduce the output of the power station as well as inspiring protestors across the world.
A group locked on to the coal conveyor belts halting the supply of coal to the furnace and at the same time 9 protestors scaled the 600 ft chimney, occupied a room and pitched tents next to the chimney flues. Unfortunately the plan to camp in the flues for a week was impossible as it became apparent that they were too hot too stay in for any long period of time.

Although the Didcot Power Station protest may ostensibly have come to a rather unsatisfactory and anticlimactic end, with the nine remaining protesters arrested when they descended last Wednesday having failed to disrupt power generation for a week as planned, the protesters achieved something more important in successfully raising more awareness of the threat of climate change.

The group met at climate camp London this year, and are not just an obscure group of radicals shrouded in secrecy, but just ordinary individuals from all sorts of trades and professions who felt compelled to do something. Initiatives for environmental action are constantly being developed by normal people who happen to meet, and agree that something needs to be done.

While the action did not gain quite the level of publicity it perhaps hoped for, given its dramatic and unusual nature, there was a reasonable degree of press coverage.

What is surprising however, and perhaps indicative of heightened public concern regarding environmental issues, was that rather condemning the protest as the work of misguided hippies, coverage in the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, and even the Daily Mail seemed at worst objective, and at best sympathetic.

Although a mainstream newspaper clearly cannot condone ‘unlawful’ protests outright, the Guardian’s article condemning ‘punitive pre-charge bail conditions’, while not compromising its own position, showed a certain solidarity by emphasising the increasingly dubious actions of law-enforcers.

The article’s inflammatory title, ‘Didcot demonstration: Police use bail restrictions to stifle climate protest’ carefully negotiates a pro-environment position that put the actions of police, not protesters, in the spotlight.

Of course, there will still be those who dismiss these facts as irrelevant, or outweighed by the jobs and electricity Didcot provides. But crucially debate is being provoked, and it is becoming increasingly clear that provocateurs are not extremists, they are people who feel that the current circumstances require extreme action. The demystification of environmental protest – making it seem more inclusive, distilling it down to an issue of personal choices just like any other political issue – will hopefully encourage others.

In a BBC article, John Rainford of RWE power is quoted as saying, “Sitting on top of a chimney isn’t going to affect climate change. The people who can – and do – really make a difference are the people at the bottom of the chimney – the power station workers. They are deeply passionate and absolutely committed to cutting emissions. These are the people who work in the community, live in the community and care about their community”. While it is true that sitting on a chimney did not stop climate change instantly and directly, there is more truth to his words than he knows. Protests are changing public opinion, and if wasn’t for public opinion there would be no call or incentive for a cut in emissions. It is small actions of the builders, receptionists and power station workers which together will determine the survival or demise of coal power in Britain.


Efterklang are a seven-piece from the tiny Danish island of Als who have big ideas involving strings, information pills brass and symphonic harmonies, viagra approved refusing to let a lack of classical training serve as a deterrent. We’ve heard and loved the album, Performing Parades, now it is time for the live experience with Nancy Elizabeth in support.

“Strong as a silk thread”

With songs like spider’s webs, Nancy Elizabeth takes the stage and casts spells. The silences between the music were broken only by the kerching of the bar cash register. A most incongruous sound against Elizabeth‘s songs, almost taunting her that her beautiful, Beth Gibbons style, delicate folk compositions will not earn her the living she deserves. Shamefully the record buying public will not embrace this artist as they should, will not clasp her to their collective bosom and give her a fraction of the kudos they heap upon the myriad of less inspired female singer songwriters. Elizabeth‘s ethereal vocal dominates the set and for several tracks is the only instrument used, to astounding effect. Elements of Cocteau Twins, Low, Portishead and perhaps even Aphex Twin, writhe and coil towards our ears, wrapping around our brain stems, poisoning us with the spaces between words.


“This world is for the birds”

Efterklang, here represented by seven human beings and their many instruments, are enormous. Each tune they play makes you feel slightly better about yourself. The exuberance and their sheer joy in playing this stripped down set wakes you up, running you through countless emotions. All the best ones, anyway. I say stripped down, they have been playing with a full orchestra, which bizarrely makes a stage crammed with seven bodies and multitudinous pieces of hardware ‘stripped down’.

“You wrote a novel, I gave it’s tune.”

On stage they talk and banter between each other and the audience in good nature, telling a story about a man called Bear and the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” I couldn’t tell you much more than that through the accent and mispronunciations, but how well do you get by in Danish? Lines from songs free themselves from their constraints and hurl themselves at me, lodging in my temporal lobe. They stayed there safe, until now when they spill across my page, headlining and bookending these words.


“I know we didn’t kiss”

They are many gigantic shades of joy and gorgeousness. They fill the room from floor to ceiling with music. Explosive, expansive music that excites you. Ethereal, angelic sounds that stay just on the right side of “soundscapes”. A solid mass of sound that will crush you, press you down, seep into you through your pores. It hurts.

Seeing this band live hurts. But in the good way.

Efterklang is the danish word for remembrance and reverberation, the album helped solidify that fact, the live experience makes the name ever more apt.

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