In a deserted mining town, amongst the relics of a once-booming industry, Danish trio Efterklang spent nine days examining the ways they could isolate sound. They climbed into cavernous storage containers, tapped on anything that was lying around, and explored open fields surrounding the abandoned machinery and warehouses. Aside from the band and crew, just a handful of other people were present on Spitsbergen, this frigid and sparse island that sits between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole.
“The best thing we did was create instruments out of these sounds,” bassist Rasmus Stolberg explains on the phone from Copenhagen. “We found a lot of sounds that had a pitch or a note, or some items we found could have three or four notes… lyrics always come last and sometimes, for us making a song, it’s not about getting a verse and a chorus that fits together. It’s much more about feelings and this kind of amazement you can sometimes get when something sounds really interesting and inspiring.”
This is the truest way the band becomes a realization of that abused label, “dream pop”: conjuring senses of this long-forgotten island, a memory held of the town before it decays. Efterklang journeyed here from their home base in Berlin with the intent that they would begin crafting their fourth full-length album, Piramida.
“We decided that this trip would be the very beginning – we’re not going to write or compose anything before. So we all had the same day one; we were all there together, doing it together. It can be really difficult to understand other people’s ideas in a sense, and with this album, we really got everything and worked for the same ideal goal. It was really nice to have this framework of this trip that we could constantly refer to.”
Their use of organic sounds on Piramida accentuates the way the trio has departed from the simpler pop sensibilities of past releases and embraced their knack for syncopated rhythms and dark, bellowing moans. For some, this may seem like a melancholy turn, but like Beirut and the Arcade Fire, it’s clear that they can succeed in both styles.
“We found out with this album that when you’ve travelled so far and you’ve spent so much time just to get one sound you like and that sound is the reason why a whole song appears, then it makes a lot of sense to make sure that sound is still present.”
As childhood friends and longtime collaborators, they’ve quite obviously spent their time together meticulously building songs layer by layer, like staging a theatrical production that shapes its storyline to lead you to one singular point where identities are revealed and it all makes sense. Stolberg, along with vocalist Casper Clausen and electronics programmer Mads Christian Brauer, also work with filmmakers to create short films, including an evocative trailer for Piramida.
“Music is the core of everything [in this band], but making a film is just as interesting to us, and sometimes even more interesting for us than going on tours and making songs.”
Though this was their first album after drummer and trumpet player Thomas Husmer left the band in 2011 and the remaining members weren’t wholly aware of what would come of their Arctic journey, Efterklang are entirely satisfied with the experience of making Piramida.
“It was a big risk for us to decide to go on an expedition like that, and spend the money and spend the energy and just put all of that focus into that. But looking back, I’m just amazed at how much we got out of it. It’s still interesting to be in this world.”
Efterklang plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Thursday, March 14.
By Jacquelyn BurkeBC, British Columbia