It’s safe to say that Efterklang is the only band that eats instant oatmeal in the morning and then travels to an abandoned Russian coal mining town, all while wondering if they should have brought a shotgun along to protect themselves against the polar bears in the area.
The band is from Copenhagen and since forming in 2000, they’ve been mixing a unique cocktail of sound by drawing from a bunch of different genres. These include indie rock, pop, classical and electronic, with hints of soul music thrown in for good measure.
When it came to creating their new album Piramida, hanging around the cobblestone streets of Europe wasn’t enough to tickle their sense of inspiration. The band members were approached by Danish director Andreas Koefoed and shown photographs of a ‘ghost town’ on the island of Svalbard in Norway.
“We were mesmerized and instantly knew it had to be that location,” said bassist Rasmus Stolberg. Fifteen years ago, the coal mining community called Piramida was hurriedly abandoned by its 1,000 inhabitants. All the buildings and equipment are still standing and the health hazards associated with the decaying town didn’t stop Efterklang from using the area as their own personal playground of sound.
Andreas Koefoed filmed the men for a movie they made about their experience in Piramida as they experimented with new sounds – stomping, banging and yelling in different locations in the dangerous area.
Lead Vocalist Casper Clausen is shown climbing into a narrow pipe and landing in an eight-meter-high empty gasoline tank. He begins to sing and project his voice to the small opening at the top of the tank; the ensuing sound is appropriately chilling. The band was especially fascinated by new mediums they could find on the island that could introduce “several notes with different pitches,” said Stolberg. Most of the album was recorded on the island and the sounds they created can’t be found in a typical recording studio.
The ghost town also offered the band a new atmosphere and feeling which they were able to capture and translate into music. The men were overwhelmed by the sensation that people didn’t belong on the island. By looking around at the lifeless buildings, “you realize how young our species is and how incredibly old and powerful our planet is.”
The area also holds the most Northern piano in the world. Once used by the Piramida inhabitants for concerts, the grand piano still remains in one of the rooms of the town. Upon hearing this, Stolberg remarked on how being able to see and play this piano excited his boyish sense of adventure.
For the premiere of Piramida, the band was accompanied by an orchestra of 50 people at the Sydney Opera House building, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. The band members barely slept between rehearsals for a month before the premiere; the resulting show was an experience that “was simply incredible,” Stolberg said.
During the first performance of their song “Ghosts”, the men had massive grins on their faces as the orchestra slowly built the foundation of the song. As the song progressed and Clausen gently jumped in with his unique voice, the band began to feel a sense of “community and focus [with] everyone present in the room.”
Clausen referred to these moments as being “magical,” and Stolberg described how he was overcome with the sensation that “time and energy flows differently.” The band was brought back to their time spent in Piramida as they revisited the sounds and lyrics inspired by the ethereal area.
With one listen of the album, you can hear Efterklang overturning all the boundaries placed on sound and bringing to life the ghostly feel of the abandoned town of Piramida.
Efterklang plays Il Motore with Nightlands on Friday, March 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.