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Detektivbyrån - E18 | A Built-In Music Box

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Artist: Detektivbyrån
Album: E18
Label: P-Vine Records
Release Date: May 2, 2008

If in some rare occurrence Beirut, Yann Tiersen and Efterklang were to perform all at once, then you would get a rough idea of what Detektivbyrån sound like. The Gothenburg-based instrumental trio have gradually moved towards a more mature sense of identity and purpose. And even though their 2008 debut, E18, is predominantly comprised of songs from 2006's Hemvägen EP, Detektivbyrån demonstrate a breadth of sound that is awe-inspiring.

Given the proliferation of electro-folk acts these days, it takes something out of the ordinary to arrest one's attention. And if the lush arrangements of small bells, placid vibes, toy-like glockenspiel and orotund accordion don't strike you as unorthodox, well, then the surprisingly minimalist moments certainly will.

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Detektivbyrån - "Laka-Koffa"

The album's title track, "E18," lures the listener in with tones fit for a snow-globe. The series of lithe metallic notes abruptly segues into a triumphant piece of French folk music. Gallic accordion lays the foundation for soaring synth solos, which serve as the closest thing to a vocal melody you'll find on this disc.

Similarly, "Hemvägen" and "Dansbanan" make use of a lovably folksy language. The booming accordion saunters about in a playfully quaint manner, coating each tune with a sort of clattering percussion. The result nearly mimics Yann Tiersen's unforgettable "La Valse d'Amélie." Yet it is the frenetic Efterklang-like bustle of the glockenspiel, which often makes it way to the foreground, that proves to be the trio's masterstroke.

"Laka-Koffa," the closing track on E18, appears to be the culmination of said whimsical elements. Layered repetitions of lingering phrases expose intermittent, ambient beats that effortlessly spark the imagination. The flurry of capricious activity almost halts time altogether, commanding you to listen with rapture.

Detektivbyrån's debut is a masterpiece of musical intrigue and sly indirection. Their style may be seldom heard but the experience is wholly satisfying. For the majority of the record is spent probing soundscapes which liberate the imagination and exalt emotion. And so, it is on this basis alone that E18 should be praised.