We first started writing about the Danish band, Efterklang, way back in 2009 (excuse the formatting—we had a much slimmer site back then). Since then, our fascination with and love of this innovative band has only grown. In 2010, we interviewed frontman, Casper Clausen, at the release of their third full-length—Magic Chairs—and debut on venerable record label, 4AD.
Two years later, the band is poised to release the fourth album, Piramida, an eerily beautiful collection of songs inspired by a nine-day exploration of an abandoned mining settlement of the same name on the snowy island of Spitsbergen, just six-hundred-some miles south of the North Pole. Not only does the album take its name from the abandoned ghostly settlement, it also captures the frozen spirit of the place, translating it into atmospheric, icy sounds that slowly crystalize and break apart again as the bands erects well-constructed pop elements on top of them. From the 4AD write-up:
“When the band returned home, nine days later, they’d accumulated just over 1,000 field recordings from the many and varied environments they explored in Piramida. The beginnings of this approach can be seen on the bands 2010 film collaboration with Vincent Moon, An Island. Then the time came to transform these audio snapshots of abandonment, of isolation touched by unique beauty, into songs…. And it’s this process, of taking sounds found organically in an alien landscape and using them to power traditional progressions of notes, of rhythms and melodies, that forms the framework for so much of Piramida. The hollow tones of ‘Told To Be Fine’ are sourced from ornate glass lamps, given new life long after their original use had become redundant. The very first sounds on the record, on opener ’Hollow Mountain’, are metal spikes being struck, protruding from a bizarre-looking oil drum the band cheerily named Miss Piggy. The synth sounds of ‘Apples’ are created from a microsecond of a wonky piano note from the aforementioned grand. Throughout, the album contains sounds that quite simply have never been heard before. What youre hearing is a very singular kind of sonic alchemy.”
And “sonic alchemy” is a very apt term for the musical structures on Piramida. Clausen’s drawn-out, wandering melodies are complemented by twinkling keys and toy-locamotive-like percussions throughout, and the three mainstays in the band (Clausen, vocals + various instruments; Mads Christian Brauer, electronics, programming, + other instruments; and bassist, Rasmus Stolberg) bring in a solid team of backup studio musicians including traditional pop instrumentalists, a full brass section, a very well-placed string orchestra, and a 70-piece girls choir to fill out the still sparsely beautiful sound.
Hear for yourself on this week’s Song, “Apple,” and, courtesy of NPR Music’s First Listen series, stream the album in its entirety below for the next week prior to it’s official release, next Tuesday, stateside. You can also check out their video for the album opener below, made up of photos + video taken of their trip to the mining settlement and animated album artwork.Pre-order the LP or CD via the band’s site (don’t be scared of the odd currency mark—it’ll convert) or via iTunes if you prefer 1’s + 0s.
The band is largely touring in Europe and overseas for the time being but will be giving a special performance as a six-piece at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this Saturday.
Photos by Rasmus Weng Karlsen; album art Hvass & Hannibal.
Note: Music posted to this site is kept online for a limited period of time out of fairness to the artists and, you know, our server. So if this is now an older post, the links may well be dead.