When looking at Danish trio Efterklang’s newest release, Piramida, it’s impossible to ignore the album’s backstory – the band camped for 10 days in an abandoned Russian settlement 400 miles north of Norway, recording more than 1,000 sounds, both from nature and man-made. Armed with these recordings, Efterklang constructed a soundscape that layers pretty, delicate synth with more aggressive orchestral music and interjects sounds from the artic north, resulting in an album almost as chilling as the air in which it was recorded.
Singer Casper Clausen’s vocals, too, end up melting into Piramida’s ambience – the line “Help, I’m falling down” from opening track “Hollow Mountain” could be representative for the rest of the album’s lyrics. For all its intricacies, impeccably clean recording and carefully calculated melodies, Piramida falls into the dangerous territory of easily becoming background music to all but the most focused listener. Gone is the overall glitchier, less polished sound from the 2004 debut full-length, Tripper, or the more upbeat feeling from 2010’s Magic Chairs. Piramida is all grown up and more complex than ever, but is also more subtle and slightly less engaging than Efterklang’s previous work. The rough edges have been smoothed over, the more jarring post-rock influence worked out, and the final product sounds like a beach being lapped by cool, slightly anticlimactic waves.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its merit, though. From beginning the album with noises from an oil drum to the background chorus and shrill instrumentation of “Black Summer” and the driving clop-clopping of “Dreams Today,” if one were to sit down at their most attentive and listen to Piramida they would hear a wide array of sounds, both simple and complex, woven together into an album that reveals new details and tells more secrets with each listen-through, constantly piquing the listener’s interest and giving the illusion of hearing it for the first time. It’s not catchy, and the songs are loosely structured without definitive hooks and melodies; instead, it’s an album that compels and challenges the listener to go through it again and again to see what he’d missed out on the last time.