Aug 10 2012: MUSIC: “Instinct” the embodiment of Swedish pop

Originally published http://elestoque.org/2012/08/10/entertainment/music-instinct-embodiment-swedish-pop/

“Instinct,” Swedish pop duo Niki and the Dove’s first album, was released on Aug. 9 to the international market. Tracks have been in development for over two years and most are free to download online. Photo taken from Sub Pop Records.

When most people think of Swedish music, opinions might range from kooky to just plain weird. Obscure pop duo Niki and the Dove’s debut album, “Instinct,” does nothing to change this preconception.

Confusingly enough, Niki and the Dove consists of female vocalist Malin Dahlström and male percussionist Gustaf Karlöf. There’s actually no one named Niki (maybe “Malin and the Dove” wasn’t catchy enough? And is Gustaf supposed to be the “Dove”?). But that’s probably focusing too much on the logistics of a group that sings about magic, witches, ravens and other eccentric subjects.

To a mainstream music listener like myself, “Instinct” is at least an ambitious album, blending various musical styles and instrumental techniques. The first track, “Tomorrow,” sounds like something Icelandic singer Bjork would have made a decade ago — haunting and vulnerable, broken by periods of throbbing instrumentals. Later tracks are less impressive and harder to classify. “The Fox,” for instance, is intricately produced but never releases the energy it builds up. Meanwhile, “The Drummer” attempts to combine too many layers of sound and collapses into a chaotic din.

To be honest, I could only understand what Malin was singing for roughly a fourth of the album. In a rare moment she enunciates enough for me to hear “I saw a raven, and spit three times.” Niki and the Dove certainly follows their own pop instincts, and the result isn’t particularly relatable.

Like most Swedish pop albums, “Instinct” is mysterious and unique, but I’d much rather have more conventional music on my iPod. For those with more eclectic tastes, it might be worth a preview.

{cc-by-nc-sa} Yimeng Han

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