Niki and the Dove are like a difficult marriage, with Niki wanting to be an unpretentious electropop band and the Dove striving for more obscure trip-hop esthetics (or the other way around). Difficult marriages, as a rule, are entertaining and informative, but not necessarily durable or easy on the ear. Then again, in Sweden things work differently, judging from the fact that the most durable and accessible Swedish act ever was the product not of one, but two difficult marriages.
There’s no Niki in Niki and the Dove, or a dove. The axis of the band is formed by singer Malin Dahlström and keyboardist Gustaf Karlöf. The duo has been making music together since early 2010. Non-writing member Magnus Böqvist (drums) joined the duo later that year. Many songs on the band’s debut album were also on the self-released EP The Drummer (2011). The EP has been on my iPod since last December as part of a playlist made for Eurosonic, where the band performed this January. Even on stage the forces within Niki and the Dove were visible, with Dahlström looking, singing and dancing like a bohemian alt Goddess, supported by dito dancer (not on film) and Karlöf and Böqvist looking and sounding like pet shop boys.
On Instinct the trippy force within the band has given ground to the poppy force. Opening song Tomorrow has the same dramatic appeal as fellow Scandinavian acts like Lykke Li, Goldfrapp and Britta Person, songs like In Your Eyes sounds like a teenybopper version of Fleetwood Mac, whilst the middle of the album (Last Night, Somebody, Love to the Test) edges towards the danceable folk-pop of acts like Tegan & Sara and Feist. Even though, these associations are for a large part prompted by the chameleon quality of Dahlström’s singing, the point is that the songs are 3FM material each and everyone. They are capturing the spirit of 2012, whatever it may be and are driven by a cathartic drum and percussion.
Instinct’s finest moments, the hypnotic chant of the Mother Project and The Drummer of were already there on last year’s EP. It are these rare moments one the album when the countervailing powers within Niki and the Dove do more than just give room to each other and actually merge into something mind-blowing. It exposes the underlying cause for the difficult marriage: even the songs that Dahlström and Karlöf wrote together are either poppy or weird, but seldom both. I’m sure that with a little counseling they will be able to put much more unity in their music without losing their edge.
Niki And The Dove will tour Europe and North America this summer. They will perform at the Electric Owl in Vancouver on the 1st of September.