Review : Efterklang - Piramida
PitchforkIn 2004, when Efterklang released their splendid debut full-length, Tripper, the Danish group appeared to have a tantalizing array of possible routes before them. Combining string instruments with well-manicured electronics, their music drew easy comparison to the wide-scale vistas of Sigur Rós or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and their work with such collaborators as the Amina string quartet and even the Danish National Chamber Orchestra pegged them as front-runners in the European wing of the burgeoning indie Classical movement.
So it is hard not to be a little dismayed to see that Efterklang have settled for what is likely the least daring-- if perhaps not the least lucrative-- path going forward. Their earlier recordings featured a core group of eight to 10 members, with their numbers frequently strengthened further by additional guest musicians, massed choirs, and chamber groups. Beginning with their 4AD album Magic Chairs in 2010, however, Efterklang scaled down to a quartet and, since the departure of drummer Thomas Husmer, have continued on as a trio, with nearly everything organized around the unflavored vocals of singer/composer Casper Clausen. In the process of winnowing down, they have gradually re-crafted their style from sweeping orchestral panoramas into a more standard form of theatric indie pop with ornamental accompaniment. On their latest album, Piramida, this shift results in music that on its surface feels ambitious and sophisticated but which manages never to take any real chances.
Even in the group's current pared-down version, Efterklang still have an exceptional palette of sounds at their fingertips, and once again the list of guest credits is a long one-- violinist Peter Broderick, pianist Nils Frahm, a brass section from the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, and, yes, a 70-piece girls' choir. The album's concept is a grand one as well: Piramida takes its name from a distant Arctic Circle ghost town to which the members of Efterklang traveled in 2011 and gathered field recordings to incorporate into their new compositions. Despite the group's diligent labor, however, the amassed instrumental arsenal is too often put to exactly the sort of patient crescendos, stately percussion, and icy choral backup vocals that have long since become soundtrack clichés. It is not at all jarring, for instance, to hear "Modern Drift", one of Efterklang's better pop songs, as the score for an Audi commercial....full text
GuardianThe boundary-blurring Danes' fourth album filters the graceful, accessible pop of 2010's Magic Chairs through a dark veil of mechanised melancholia. "Help, I'm falling," sings Casper Clausen in opener Hollow Mountain, his tumbling timbre capturing the emptiness of the abandoned Russian settlement where the album was made and from which it takes its title. In Sedna, Clausen's dexterous vocals capture a world-weariness reminiscent of Smog's Bill Callahan, while Between the Walls has the dappled keys and falsetto highs of 1970s soul. Drawing mournful brass, dramatic strings and small, percussive fireworks into dark, lapping waves of introspection, the band – now a trio following the departure of Thomas Husmer – glisten on the restless, bass-led groove of The Ghost and rack up the tension on a nourish Black Summer. Their eclectic style, however, demands space to breathe, and shorter songs, like The Living Layer and Dreams Today, which starts as a sprint but ends up puffed out, are left wanting....full text
BbcFor 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....full text
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