album reviews

4AD (2012)

Kindred spirits: Boards of Canada, Sigur Ros, Mogwai.

Electronic indie-pop band Efterklang created the sounds for its new album, "Piramida", in an unusual spot. The Copenhagen trio traveled to Piramida, an abandoned mining town on the island of Spitsbergen, between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. Using materials ranging from empty oil drums to an old grand piano, the musicians made field recordings and then manipulated them in their Berlin studio.

The resulting 10 songs have moments of peaceful serenity, conjuring the fragility of the deserted community. Album-opener "Hollow Mountain" alternates between a trancelike, repetitive electronic luster and more traditional vocals, recorded with a clear, direct tone. "Black Summer" moves at a deliberate pace, blending dramatic horns with the uneasy chimes of the group's odd recordings. The faint vocals of a choir only add to the song's intensity.

The real trouble with "Piramida", however, is that it doesn't stand apart from its backstory. Some of the songs are interesting because of where their sounds came from, not because of how they sound. The final track, "Monument", plays like a reprise of what came before, its only saving grace the gorgeously sighed vocal repetition of "I'm over it." Despite those stunning lines, "Piramida" still feels like something listeners have heard before, even if its sounds came from somewhere very few people have ever been.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 22 February 2013.
.: Piramida on