Efterklang – Piramida (4AD/Rhythmethod) CD REVIEW

EFTERKLANG ISN’T EXACTLY a name that slips easily off the tongue, although it is surprisingly, kinetically fun for the mouth to play around with its pronunciation. Apparently it means two things at the same time: reverberation and remembrance, which ties in nicely with the Danish group’s fourth album.
There’s certainly plenty of reverberation on Piramida, and in a sense, it’s all about remembrance, as much as music can ever be ‘about’ anything. The album was inspired by photographs the group saw of an abandoned settlement on an island between Norway and the North Pole. Subsequently, the trio travelled to this ghost town and made thousands of field recordings there, which have been stitched into the fabric of the resultant album.
Who’s to say whether sounds recorded in an abandoned environment carry with them evocative traces that add any genuine resonance to a work? At the very least, however, it’s clear that the members of Efterklang were moved by the experience, and perhaps it’s that emotional gravity that contributes to the special mood that permeates through Piramida.
It’s an ambitious album that combines those processed field recordings (including the dulcet tones of a very lonesome grand piano discovered in an abandoned ballroom) with moody electronics and melancholy vocals. Yes, these are compositions/songs, and while incorporating experimental elements, it’s not what I’d call a difficult listen, because of those comforting, melancholy melodies that bring it all back into focus.
In fact, Efterklang could be described as pop from a parallel universe. Their mournful, dignified vocals aren’t that far removed from, say, Scottish group The Blue Nile; it’s the musical accompaniment that makes for a stark point of contrast, and gives it hidden (or half-submerged) depths.
There’s a classical component here, too, with its use of string section and a 70-piece girls’ choir. The music feels painted in, with a real sense of colour; and yet, for all that materiality, there are also layers of pure drift, of ambient ethereality.
Piramida is both airy and elemental, and it’s pretty special. GARY STEEL

Music = 4/5
Sound = 4/5

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