Sound hunting, nostalgia, amateur film, and the decaying remnants of the Soviet coal mining outpost Piramida in the Arctic Circle. Danish band Efterklang keenly used these ingredients to shape their ambitious cross-medial project, surrounding the release of their latest album. Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen and Rasmus Stolberg, the idiosyncratic core members of the band, for nine days devoted themselves to the haunting landscape of the Svalbard archipelago. Flanked by underwhelmed Russian polar bear guard Vadim, the threesome puts their temporary environment to the test sonically.
But THE GHOST OF PIRAMIDA does not necessarily impress only as an aestheticized account of Efterklang’s quirky sound hunting antics, nor does the beautifully framed Soviet Cold War-era decorum, which evokes a slightly post-apocalyptic, yet at the same time nostalgic mood. Most striking is how filmmaker Andreas Koefoed ties together into one spectral whole Efterklang’s music, Piramida’s physical decay and the soundscapes it facilitates, and the overwhelming visual power of the Arctic.
Paradoxically, Spitsbergen’s rare industrial site is not the glue that pastes these aspect into a meaningful whole; but rather the retired coal miner Alexander and his Moscow apartment are. Alexander’s off-screen narrating voice has a timbre that oozes the longing for a time long gone. When eventually the coal miner’s celluloid memories of his life in Piramida quite literally permeates through his body and every nook and cranny of his Moscow apartment, Koefoed realises an affectionate apotheosis. By projecting the amateur footage of Alexander’s history in his current (probably undesired) habitat, Koefoed allows past and present to converge into a finely tuned nostalgic experience, accompanied by one of PIRAMIDA’s finest tracks: ‘Apples’.
The progressive mode of exhibition is most definitely another interesting aspect of the PIRAMIDA project. Besides traditional screenings in (art) cinemas across the globe, the Berlin-based band encourages public/private screenings of their film. Many living rooms, club houses, and cultural centres took the opportunity to screen this impressive documentary. So, If you start to feel the urge to organise a screening yourself (something I would wholeheartedly recommend) please do not hesitate and sign up at the band’s website. There, you can also check if there is a public/private screening near your home any time soon!