Interview

Liima’s New Album Is Called 1982, But It Looks To The Future

When the Danish trio behind Efterklang — Casper Clausen, Rasmus Stolberg, and Mads Brauer — embarked on a new collaboration with their touring drummer, Finnish percussionist Tatu Rönkkö, none of them initially thought it would extend beyond a one-off project. That was back in 2015. Since then their new band Liima released a debut album, ii, and they’re already following it up with a new one, 1982. The music here was composed the same way, but the results are far different; 1982 finds Liima expanding beyond their debut and moving even further away from Efterklang.

Like with ii, Liima wrote the songs on 1982 in a series of residencies around Europe. It’s enough to make any artist or writer envious: These guys have managed to build a system where they get invited to residencies in hotels or schools around the world, they jam and distill the results into songs, and then they’ll perform what they have. But there was a more rigorous approach to the “distilling” part this time around.

When it came time to hone in on 1982, Liima decamped to a small Finnish town called Porvoo — a place that mixes old wooden homes of Finnish heritage with more modern, more brutal architecture surrounding them — to record the album with Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. (Taylor and the three Danes in Liima go way back, to when Grizzly Bear opened for Efterklang on the former’s first European tour back in 2005.) The studio was actually the old ballroom/community house of Porvoo, and the surroundings, combined with Taylor’s guiding hand, allowed the band to focus in on a different goal this time around. “Our first record was about capturing raw energy,” Clausen says. “1982 was a much more sculptural process, with each layer being added carefully but also with the intention of making a studio album rather than a live recording captured in a studio.”

The result is an album that does feel more like a cohesive journey compared to ii, which, whether because it was Liima’s first album or because it was their first time writing in all these different places like Madeira and London, was a record that was happy to adventure off into all sorts of various directions. Clausen credits Taylor for bringing a focus, even if it was in small ways like grounding the five of them with shared reference points like Depeche Mode and Joy Division. (The mid-album epic “People Like You,” which begins skittering and tumbles into a propulsive new wave conclusion that sounds like a cooler version of Coldplay, originated with the band jamming along to Joy Division’s “Atmosphere.”) The result is also an album that is darker and more meditative than its predecessor.

On Liima’s first album, you could feel the rush the band was experiencing; ii felt like a series of vignettes and snapshots taken in rapid motion, glimpses of far-flung corners of the world colliding. Clausen was often looking outwards, like on the album’s standout “Amerika,” a pre-election contemplation of America’s identity abroad, written from the island of Madeira. On 1982, he turned inwards.

As he hit his mid-30s, Clausen found himself mulling over his life and the big existential questions that hit us from time to time. He found himself parsing how he had lived his life so far, what he meant to other people and what he meant to himself. That could make 1982 sound like an insular and brooding listen, but it’s more reflective and melancholic. “I think we found some kind of safe haven for those thoughts,” Clausen offers. It’s a more personal record, which in turn makes it leave a mark that’s different than the sonic-dominated pleasures of ii.

Much of it is right there in the name: 1982 is the year Clausen was born, and the rest of Liima (and Taylor) were born in the surrounding years. They were united by certain childhood reference points, like old-school video games, Blade Runner, and The Terminator, much of which you can hear in the album’s moody, nocturnal atmosphere more so than in the actual sounds — though there are synth parts in “Jonathan I Can’t Tell You” and “My Mind Is Yours” that remind me of the old Super Nintendo Donkey Kong Country games. (“We all asked Santa Claus to delive us a Game Boy,” Clausen jokes about the common experience of the five dudes who worked on 1982.)

But the real common experience was being born in that era and aging into this one, the common experience of being born into a world with the primitive beginnings of the technology of the future, only to witness the rapid acceleration and proliferation of it. But don’t let the album’s ’80s anime cover or the retro video game aesthetic of the title track’s video fool you: 1982 only digs through the past to mine it, to harvest elements and memories for the purpose of dreaming up something else, whether that is the album’s space-age synth textures or Clausen’s personal reckoning with a path forward. “This is not a retro record,” he’s quick to state. “These songs are meant to be exciting in our times and for the future.”

Liima succeeded there. The songs on 1982 don’t feel of any one era or place. They feel like interpretations of pop music from another world. They conjure up that navigation of nostalgia and your roots that’s built into the album: The songs often feel built for a Blade Runner-type cityscape, meaning they both recall the past’s idea of the future and they transport you into someplace in our not-too-distant future. 1982’s huge, lush title track is a mission statement of sorts in that regard. “The song circles around a theme of running away from my birth, then trying to return, then realizing that’s nonsense and that the place where I was born is long gone,” Clausen says of “1982.” “Things are moving all the time, I’m moving all the time, and I am here in the moment trying to look ahead instead of looking back.”

That’s what’s most striking about 1982, that push-pull between forward-thinking visions and yearning attempts to clarify the past. It’s present in most of the album’s standouts, from the cresting and oscillating synths of “David Copperfield” — which used to be called “Harry Potter,” but, you know, legal shit — hitting the climax of Clausen’s desperate, distant, then at-peace cries, to the celestial funk of “Life Is Dangerous” grappling with a point where nothing exhilarates a person anymore. The pillars of the album are the songs that begin Side A and Side B, “1982” and “2-Hearted,” a duo of songs that use different songwriting approaches to capture that feeling of being attracted to two, divergent, roads. By the time the album concludes with “My Mind Is Yours,” that isn’t exactly resolved, because maybe resolution can’t exist there. The closest you can get is accepting it, and moving the way you’re going to move.

What makes 1982 a beautiful and often cathartic record is the way it depicts both that initial tension, and that eventual revelation. You can hear the whole thing for yourself now below.

1982 is out 11/3 via City Slang. Pre-order it here.