A so-called “abstract documentary” about the band (sort of) and, well, an island off the coast of Denmark (sort of), An Island is 48-odd minutes – or perhaps an odd 48 minutes – of pure, unfettered artistic collaboration, documented Dogme-style. Sounds unwatchably pretentious? It’s precisely the opposite.
The aim, cooked up by Moon and the eight-piece band, was to create an album-length movie featuring music from Efterklang’s 2010 album Magic Chairs. But not just any old recorded versions of the songs, oh no: the band hooked up with all manner of musically-minded children, parents and instrumentalists on the island to record, remix, reversion and generally turn some of the album’s highlights inside out and back again to see what new shapes emerged.
Vincent Moon, let it be said, has form in this milieu. From 2006 onwards, the French director’s series of 121 guerilla Concerts à Emporter (Take-Away Shows) included one-take impromptu mini-gigs by everyone from Jens Lekman and Xiu Xiu to Stuart Staples and even REM. A more extensive collaboration with the latter followed after Michael Stipe convinced him to jump on board.
For their part, Efterklang are well known for having always taken an overtly visual approach to music-making, as a quick trip around their label Rumraket’s YouTube page will attest (in fact, you’ll find a teaser for An Island there too).
By turns dizzying, stirring and just plain inspirational, it’s undeniably fascinating to watch the island’s inhabitants forging rhythms out of clanging farm equipment and squeezing atmosphere out of raindrops. ‘Raincoats’ takes on new life in a forest, we find out how the band first met – “I remember I saw you at high school, walking every day as if you were 10 minutes late” – ‘Alike’ is lovingly recreated in a farmhouse, and if the stamping, trilling schoolkids of ‘Me Me Me The Brickhouse’ don’t lead you to find, ahem, something in your eye, you have a heart of coal, my friend.
In an interesting promotional move, Efterklang and Moon are offering An Island to anyone who’d care to show it, at what they’re calling “private/public screenings” – all you have to do is promise not to charge anyone, and ensure at least five people are present at the screening. The offer’s valid until the end of March – check out Anisland.cc for details. All we can say is DO IT: it’s a beautiful, soul-warming film that goes way beyond its remit.