First Listen: Efterklang, 'Piramida'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson
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It's almost impossible to discuss Piramida, the new fourth album by the Danish band Efterklang, without delving into the story behind it — not because the story is compelling (though it is), but because that story feeds so much of the sound. The details behind Piramida's creation reside in each mysterious plink and plunk and wash of prettiness that dots this densely three-dimensional record. To listen is to play an ongoing, ever-shifting game of "Where did that come from?"

Inspired by a nine-day session spent gathering field recordings in the abandoned Russian mining settlement that gives the album its name — it's on an island situated between Norway and the North Pole — Piramida is full of strange and mysterious accumulated sounds. The vacant facility produced all sorts of ghostly and clamorous sonic emissions, many of which find their way into these 10 sweetly stately, somewhat uncharacteristically melancholy songs. What sounds like a thumb piano in "Hollow Mountain," for example, is actually the product of an oil tank, although what sounds like a 70-member girls' choir is actually a 70-member girls' choir; every second of Piramida is sculpted to maximize its beauty, and Efterklang draws from the biggest toolkit imaginable.

For all its lofty forays into sonic experimentation, Piramida is as accessible as can be: Efterklang's music here resides somewhere between the cooing gloom of Bon Iver — especially in "Told to Be Fine" and "Dreams Today" — and the soaring grandiosity of Coldplay. But that approachability never surfaces at the expense of surprise, as Efterklang's members explore a lost world with the fussy exactitude of scientists and the loving care of roving poets.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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