Altid Sammen

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Known for their neo-classical, experimental post-rock, Danish trio Efterklang reached a career high with their ambitious fourth album, 2012's Piramida, an icy masterstroke rooted in eerie, field-recorded sounds the band captured at a deserted Russian settlement on a remote Norwegian island near the North Pole. Following it up would be no simple task, and they managed to avoid doing so for nearly seven years while bandmates Casper Clausen, Mads Brauer, and Rasmus Stolberg focused on different projects, including co-writing an opera with composer Karsten Fundal and forming a new band, Liima, which sounded very much like a more synth-heavy pop version of their main outfit. Released in 2019, Altid Sammen is Efterklang's fifth studio album and their first to be sung entirely in their native language. Spacious and celestial, there is a feeling of scaled-down majesty as they deliberately strip away many of the dense arrangements of previous outings and allow the breeze to gently blow through the gaps. As mood setters, Efterklang deftly set the field, creating an intimate, inviting world of warmly burbling synth arpeggios, nimbly picked guitars, clean basslines, and soft trumpet tones, while Clausen, singing in Danish, dips in and out of his airy falsetto, evoking quiet wonder on tracks like "Vi Er Uendelig" and "Uden Ansigt." Here and there, strings or brass sections puff up certain tracks, recalling some of the lushness of Piramida, but without its wintry sheen. The lovely "Hænder der Åbner Sig" builds ever so slowly from an understated vocal and organ drone into a crystalline crescendo of harp and muted brass, making for one of the more unabashedly beautiful tracks the band has recorded. Likewise, Altid Sammen's two lengthiest cuts, the seven-plus-minute "Under Broen der Ligger Du" and "Hold Mine Hænder" take a similar misty path, unfolding at their own sweet pace, at times recalling the elegant synth pop of the Blue Nile interspersed with moments of ECM-label acoustic ambience and shimmering reverence. The only thing that really holds the album back is its consistently glacial pace, which tends to blur its nine ample tracks into one ongoing movement. Still, the amount of detail and craft that goes into Efterklang's music is deeply appealing and, slow moving as it may be, listening to Altid Sammen in its entirety is time well spent.

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