Danish trio bravely, and masterfully, embraces darker themes and moods for album four.
Stevie Chick 2012-09-11
For their fourth album, Efterklang travelled to Piramida, a former Russian mining colony turned ghost town near the North Pole, to record sounds and ambience. And while those particular sounds might not be immediately traceable among the elements arranged herein, the desolate, isolated nature of the abandoned settlement pervades the album that it inspired.
It’s a mood fitting for these songs, more sober and ambitious than Efterklang have previously attempted. Past albums enchanted with music box electronica and neo-classical chamber pop, but Piramida is weightier, grappling with loss and with feeling lost, with the crises that come with age, the self-doubt that follows heartbreak.
Hollow Mountain sets the tone, finding Casper Clausen in the dark of an endless night, sounding courageous but exhausted: “And I wonder, I wonder, I wonder / What I am.” His baritone recalls the solemn richness of Scott Walker, evoking an existential restlessness, a resigned heroism, perfectly suiting Piramida’s darker moments.
On Apples, Clausen bids farewell to his love, murmuring forlornly “Run away, run away… you are forgotten,” as Morricone-esque horns sound stoic reveries behind him, lending a widescreen sweep to the melodrama. Sedna slips from choral blare into a muted soul groove, as Clausen finds himself (as Stevie Nicks once sang) drowning in the sea of love, submerged, overwhelmed, claustrophobic.
Amid such moments of sublime drama and high stakes balladry – understated but never undernourished – Piramida’s flashes of brightness are powerful. The interlacing polyrhythms and gossamer harmonies of Told to Be Fine evoke Wild Combination-era Arthur Russell, and Talking Heads at their sweetest, a deep confection rush. The falsetto soul croons of Between the Walls are heady and joyous, and The Ghost might be Piramida’s finest stroke, a chimeric glide of a song moving to a sleek Afrobeat shuffle and irresistible bassline.
This see-saw, between exquisite gloom and bruised hope, is part of what makes Piramida so powerful. Their other albums proved Efterklang’s playfulness could charm, but here the group bravely embraces darker themes and moods, grazing the profound but never throwing off their lightness of touch. Rarely have the Serious Young Man Blues been articulated with such grace, so affectingly.