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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dan's Pick of The Week: Piramida by Efterklang

The experimental pop band from Denmark, Efterklang, released their fourth album last September, which has the band slowly moving their way into America’s media. Not to say that their presence was never really known, but it seems that they try to make their rounds here and there to get more fans when possible. You won’t see the band on any top charts here, but you may recognize a couple of their songs in commercials. The band currently consists of six members, and they started their tour this month for their new album, Piramida, which I believe upholds the fan’s expectations, but not in the way that was expected.
Efterklang is known for its exotic sounds, and each of their albums are unique in a certain way. For Piramida, the band took a different approach: They used nature to their advantage. They occupied an abandoned Russian mining facility located on an island near the North Pole. Recordings were made from old oil tanks, decaying buildings, and spacious halls to be used towards the album’s authentic sound. Images of the island are shown throughout their music video of “Hollow Mountain”, which is the opening track to the album.

After reading their biography on their band page, the thing I found most interesting was that they discovered an old piano on the island. The warped notes can be heard on the second track of the album titled, “Apples”, which were used to make some of the synth sounds you hear. Songs like the “The Living Layer” include echoing choruses from the insides of large structures, while “Dreams Today” begins and ends with lead singer, Casper Clausen’s footsteps on a boarded pathway.

The main problem I have with the album, however, is that with this brilliant approach to use natural sounds, they really only scratch the surface in their final release. Everything is just mixed in with electronic sounds. Sure it all comes out good in the end, but in the end all I hear are generic electronic sounds arranged with the voices and other various instruments that give Efterklang its reputation. The heart of the album is the song “Dreams Today”, which I think is beautiful, but it’s really short compared to its content, and builds up to practically nothing. It seems to be more of a transition piece than a song all by itself.
Piramida, is still a good album, it just doesn’t achieve the “breakthrough” status that it originally set out to obtain. The album is consistent in its techniques, giving it a fluent feel. It may not be Efterklang’s greatest accomplishment (I still prefer their previous album, Magic Chairs), but Piramida will take you on a quite unfamiliar, yet satisfying journey filled with artistic movements.
Efterklang’s North America tour starts in 2013, and they arrive in Philly at the end of February. I’d definitely recommend coming out to see them perform live.

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  1. I'm having trouble understanding what you mean by "generic electronic sounds". Give me an example of an artist who uses synthesizers in a way that is more refreshing and exciting to you.

    1. The reason that I stated this was because Efterklang went out of their way to find a new sound using what was literally abandoned. In the end, however, they dilute it in their electronic sounds that I would deem as generic. What I mean by generic is that I could go on garageband and find the same synthesized sounds. I'm not saying that synthesizers are always dull and unappealing (obviously not true). What I am saying is that Piramida is a harnessed piece of raw nature rapped in a cheap synthetic blanket. It's able to keep the music comfortable, but I only see the blanket, not the nature. I know it's in there, but I don't see it enough. Efterklang is known for their unique music that involves a compilation of both synthesizers and instrumentation, and that is why I said I was disappointed. Regarding your other question, there's a lot of refreshing electronic sounds in music, the synthesizers in Piramida are just not part of them. For example, I enjoyed listening to Animal Collective’s new album. I think it's fresher in the way that they mix and match their sounds and their progression.

    2. Yeah, I get what you're saying now. One thing you have to keep in mind is that these guys are likely designing their sounds from scratch. Though you could find similar timbres in Garage Band, they put a lot more thought into their sound design than simply pulling up a preset. Of course, I'm not saying that that process makes the sounds original or interesting, just that each sound requires more work than you might expect. Regardless, I definitely see where you're coming from.