Sounds of Scandinavia
Piramida, the fourth studio release from the Danish group Efterklang, is an album saturated with symbolism. It’s a conceptual album that manages to build its themes sonically and subtly, weaving them into a dense tapestry that blends the classical instrumentation of brass and strings with experimental synth-pop.
The album’s name is derived from Pyramiden, an abandoned mining settlement on the Norwegian island Spitsbergen where the members of Efterklang made field recordings. The album rises up around these recordings, growing into tracks like “The Ghost,” where a brass section echoes like foghorns across a dark, freezing bay, haunting the song. Funky percussion and a shambling rhythm take the track towards brighter horizons as layers upon layers of instrumentation create a lush texture, typical of the band’s repertoire. “Dreams Today” also emerges from one of these recordings, starting with crying gulls and the percussive sound of feet running on an old wooden dock, with uptempo keys mimicking the feel of running. “Dreams Today” finds vocalist Casper Clausen at his most operatic, stretching the rich timbre of his voice past its usual mellifluous tones.
Piramida creates a sonic atmosphere that evokes the windswept fjords of Scandinavia, at once orchestral and electronic. It can be soft and melancholy, as on the gently rising and falling crescendos, organ-like synths, and tinkling falsetto of “Sedna.” The album’s opening track, “Hollow Mountain,” is the perfect introduction to this icy, desolate landscape: it starts quietly, with light, echoing percussion that joins haunting horns and orchestral, ethereal vocals. Chimes and staccato strings mingle with futuristic effects, growing into a surprisingly conventional pop chorus. But there’s also the experimental “Black Summer,” with its low, funky horns and jazzy trumpet fanfare, where bluesy piano and soulful, choral vocals come together in a song that’s much more abstract and fluid.
Efterklang creates something quite original with Piramida, from its thematic conception to its mélange of musical styles and instruments. While it’s not perfect, its rich, dense composition lends to multiple listens. Piramida is something to contemplate, to savor, to listen to anew and discover another nuance of theme, another melody.