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Band mines a rich seam of subtle beauty

album of the week

Efterklang

Piramida

(4AD)

HHHHI

Piramida is an abandoned Soviet mining town located on an island between Norway and the North Pole. It was here that the three core members of Denmark's Efterklang spent nine days collecting all manner of unusual found sounds.

The fruits of their labours in such isolated terrain inform this stately, hugely atmospheric fourth album.

Their last album, 2010's Magic Chairs, refined their sense of chamber pop and its accessibility encouraged fanciful talk of Scandinavia's answer to Coldplay. Piramida is a very different proposition -- a meticulously arranged collection that's all about mood and tone rather than arena-baiting choruses.

Rather than trying to ape Chris Martin, Casper Clausen's elegant baritone recalls Tindersticks' Stuart Staples, especially on the majestically downbeat Sedna -- a song that encapsulates the sort of doomed fatalism and fuzzy existential crises that have long exercised this band.

Such themes are apparent, too, on the album's sombre but beguiling opener Hollow Mountain, a track that typifies Efterklang's renewed sense of adventure -- and sonic ambition.

Strings and horns vie for attention for much of the album, yet it's a testament to the compositional strength of the material that such orchestral pomp rarely feels superfluous.

And even when a 70-member girls' choir is employed, it feels like an inspired move and not the spurious action of a band let loose on their record company's expense account.

While there is no shortage of melodrama -- such as the widescreen Told to Be Fine -- Clausen and friends are not afraid to embrace an understated approach, as they do on The Ghost, a quietly potent number whose subtle charms will bloom if given a chance.

The beauty of Piramida, meanwhile, seems to lose little when translated to a live setting.

That was very much in evidence at Dublin's Meeting House Square last weekend when the band -- plus assorted local musicians -- performed a wonderfully evocative show as part of the city's Absolut Fringe festival.

KEY TRACKS The Ghost; Hollow Mountain

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