The world needs more artists like Elias Bender Rønnenfelt. The danish songwriter was first introduced as the teenage frontman of Iceage, an enigmatic punk outfit from Copenhagen with disruptive, noisy tendencies. After releasing three records between 2011 and 2014, all to relative critical acclaim, Rønnenfelt switched his focus to Marching Church, the name he’d given his more sparse and orchestrated home recordings.
In the two albums Marching Church has released to date (This World Is Not Enough and Telling It Like It Is), Rønnenfelt has opened up space to explore the full range of his tortured, highly emotive vocals. Indeed, if there’s anything about the project that will hook listeners, it’s Rønnenfelt’s delirious vocals. He sounds like a drunk and desperate crooner swaying half supported by a mic stand. He sounds like Richard Hell’s bastard son. Plenty of his heartbreaking vocals turn inwards thematically, dealing with issues of love, loneliness, and self doubt. At other times he focuses on subjects vital to 21st century urbanites, like gentrification and social isolation.
Rønnenfelt is accompanied by collaborators from several other projects including Lower, Hand of Dust, the Stargaze Orchestra, and the Choir of Young Believers. Despite supplementing the usual rock band setup with a flute, trumpet, saxophone, and layers of strings, Marching Church’s songs remain dynamic and tasteful. The orchestration manages to be lush but not suffocating, with the full band being more powerful than the sum of its parts.
In this new millennium, so much of the American counterculture has either had its tongue so firmly planted in its cheek, or has been so busy with self-referential navel gazing, that rock music that actually gives a damn seems downright transgressive. We’ve been having a beach-themed pizza party on the deck of the titanic, pantomiming the aesthetics of past decades’ countercultures without the grit and emotion that made them vital.
Rønnenfelt gives a damn. He’s concerned with the heart of life, and what he has to say is vital. More than ever, we need more musicians like him. »
– Christopher Klarer
*Marching Church plays on Jan. 14 at Mississippi Studios. Tickets here.