Forever fascinated by the purest possibilities of sound, since forming in 2001 Efterklang have consistently adjusted their sonic modus operandi to suit very specific inspirations. The results the Danes have produced so far â most notably across three acclaimed albums, 2004âs Tripper, 2007âs Parades and 2010âs Magic Chairs â have each explored different directions, each an end product of remarkably studied songcraft and emotional resonance.
But Piramida is perhaps the bandâs greatest achievement: an album bringing the outside in, informed by frozen time and the relics humanity leaves in its expanding wake. Its roots were laid in 2010, when the band first saw photographs of a forgotten settlement lying, slowly dying, on Spitsbergen, an island of the Svalbard archipelago midway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. This ghost town, which the trio eventually visited in August 2011 (drummer Thomas Husmer left before Piramidaâs commencement), would give their fourth album its title, and comprise the conceptual catalyst for its contents.
Once an outpost for some 1,000 Russians, the former mining facility was abandoned in January 1998, near as overnight. Today the town is in a state of slow decay, as deserted possessions erode and buildings where once people were schooled, fed and entertained return to nature. Between the empty oil drums and fuel tanks, glass bottles and lampshades â and sea birds, and polar bears â the band discovered the worldâs northernmost grand piano, standing proudly in a concert hall that once held 400 people. Its notes can be heard on Piramida, perhaps for the first time anywhere in over a decade.
When the band returned home, nine days later, theyâd 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 bandâs 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.
âThe idea for this album was to start from scratch, for all three of us to create from the same blank canvas,â says Stolberg, the best part of a year after their trip, in Berlin. It was to the buzzing German city that Efterklang relocated from Copenhagen in 2010, and where Piramida found its final form.
It was Brauer who made sense of the sounds the three had brought home. Returning to his memories of visiting Piramida, he selected noises and carefully treated them to produce incredibly standalone sounds for use in the albumâs songs. What might sound like an organ of some kind on the track âSednaâ is actually a combination of recordings from the aforementioned fuel tank and grand piano â but itâs only at an atomic level that these elements remain, so delicately have they been synthesised into a workable instrument.
And itâs this process, of taking sounds found organically in an alien landscape and using them to power âtraditionalâ progressions of notes, of rhythms and melodies, that forms the framework for so much of Piramida. The hollow tones of âTold To Be Fineâ 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 âHollow Mountainâ, are metal spikes being struck, protruding from a bizarre-looking oil drum the band cheerily named Miss Piggy. The synth sounds of âApplesâ are created from a microsecond of a wonky piano note â from the aforementioned grand. Throughout, the album contains sounds that quite simply have never been heard before. What youâre hearing is a very singular kind of sonic alchemy.
But just as previous exercises in experimentation, albeit with very different starting points, havenât compromised accessibility, so Piramida balances its challenging genesis with great immediacy. On tracks like âThe Ghostâ and âBetween the Wallsâ, there are whispers of the majestic orchestrations of Magic Chairs. These moments, however subtle, serve to trace progression without skewing from a path thatâs served Efterklang so well already.
Every added element â including contributions from Peter Broderick (violin), Earl Harvin (drums), Nils Frahm (piano), brass from the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, and a 70-piece girls choir â owes its presence to the trioâs Piramida visit. âEverything that has gone onto this record is connected with that trip,â says Clausen. Adds Stolberg: âWe didnât really know where we were going to end the record â but the starting point was something we could control. That was an amazing framework for us, and we could constantly put what we were working on in the context of that trip.â
Lyrically, Clausen isnât telling of empty houses and dusty grand pianos â but his heartfelt performance, more prominent in the mix here than on past albums and all the more affecting for it, is carried by a different kind of isolation, of abandonment. In his words there are glimpses of a relationship splintered, a community of two lost to the winds. Itâs thousands of geographical miles away from Piramida, yet becomes the heart of Piramida.
A less-densely layered collection than the electronic-hued Parades, and more direct than Magic Chairs, Piramida is a rare example of a conceptually strong project that never forgets to let the concept serve the song, rather than the other way around. Itâs a streamlined sound, but distinct and absorbing too. It showcases a band superbly capable of transitioning experiences shared by a select few into music that can be enjoyed by a wide, open-minded audience.
That Efterklang had to journey to the top of the world to begin their creative process makes for a fantastic story; but itâs just the prologue for what happens now with Piramida. Launching the album at the Sydney Opera House in May 2012, the band completed the first voyage of many in this campaign â from north to south, with their finest record yet crafted somewhere between extreme latitudes. And wherever it lands next, Piramida has the elegant touch to make any vista a memorable one.
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Piramida is released on September 24, 2012 via 4AD
Efterklang is: Mads Christian Brauer: electronics, programming, various instruments Casper Clausen: vocals, various instruments Rasmus Stolberg: bass
Discography: Piramida album, 4AD 2012 An Island collaborative documentary with Vincent Moon, Rumraket 2011 Magic Chairs album, 4AD 2010 Performing Parades live-album, concert film, documentary, The Leaf Label 2009 Parades album, The Leaf Label 2007 Under Giant Trees mini-album, The Leaf Label 2007 One-Sided LP LP, Burnt Toast Vinyl 2006 Tripper album, The Leaf Label 2004 Springer mini-album, Rumraket 2003 (The Leaf Label, 2005)
An Island and The Private-Public Screenings This 50 minute documentary and performance film from 2011 was made in collaboration with the French director Vincent Moon. An Island premiered January 31st 2011 and between the months of February & March 1,178 Private-Public Screenings were hosted around the world. The Private-Public Screening system was developed by Efterklang and followed a simple method. Screenings could be hosted by anyone provided it was a free entry event for a minimum of five people. The film was released under a Creative Commons license and is now available on DVD and via a Pay-What-You-Want download at www.anisland.cc
Efterklang & Orchestras Over the years Efterklang has collaborated with a string of esteemed classical orchestras and with the release of Piramida they continue this tradition. The Piramida Concerts premiered at the Sydney Opera House in May 2012 and in late 2012 Efterklang will play fifteen special Piramida Concerts together with classical orchestras in concert halls around Europe. The band will also perform at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the week of Piramidaâs official release.
Rumraket: The label Rumraket was established in 2003 by Efterklang to release the bandÂ´s own debut EP Springer. A year later Efterklang signed with The Leaf Label, but they still had ambitions for their own label. Rumraketâs first signing was Grizzly Bear, giving the US bandâs debut album its official European release in 2005. Releases with bands like Amiina (IS), Canon Blue (US), Kama Aina (JP) and Taxi Taxi! (SE) followed until Efterklang decided to close this part of the label in 2011. Today Rumraket only releases titles by Efterklang in Scandinavia (4AD for the rest of the world).
When Efterklang presented their fourth album, Piramida, for the first time to a sold out audience at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra last year, the evening’s success gave the Danish act the opportunity to take this unique performance around the globe. Dubbed The Piramida Concerts, and with orchestral arrangements by fellow Dane Karsten Fundal and New York composer Missy Mazzoli, it has been staged fifteen times, with sold out performances at London’s Barbican with the Northern Sinfonia and New York’s Metropolitan Museum concert hall with The Wordless Music Orchestra.
Directed by Spanish filmmaker Victor Carrey, ‘The Ghost’ tells the surreal story of the curse that befalls anyone carrying an ancient amulet.
Watch ‘The Ghost’ here or below.
Efterklang first met Carrey in 2011 when members Rasmus and Casper were invited to be part of the jury for the FIB Cortos film festival in Benicassim, Spain. The winning film was Carrey’s La Huida (The Runaway).
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