Combining the avant-garde pop of early Bjork with the melancholic electro of Robyn and the minimal techno of The Knife, Stockholm trio Niki & The Dove further cement Scandinavia’s reputation as the true home of the nu-synth revival with their Sub Pop issued debut album, Instinct.
Whilst many similar acts have struggled to make themselves heard having emerged from such an already-crowded scene, Malin Dahlstrom’s naturally kooky vocal presence and pagan-obsessed lyrics and Gustaf Karlof’s suitably mystical production ensures its twelve tracks all bring something a little more other-worldly to the table.
Indeed, with its hypnotic tribal drums, New Age melodies and spooky whispered chants, “The Gentle Roar” sounds like the kind of paean you’d hear during the horrific climax of The Wicker Man, whilst the slow-burning art-pop of “Mother Protect” and the sinister string-laden “The Fox” are more suited to the Summer Solstice Festival than, say, Glastonbury or Coachella.
But there’s more to Niki & The Dove’s magical 80s-inspired sound than their supernatural leanings. Exploding to life with an impossibly euphoric chorus, “Tomorrow” is such a convincing Kate Bush pastiche that it’s difficult to believe it’s not an out-take from Hounds Of Love, likewise the woozy synth-pop of “The Drummer.”
Elsewhere, the reflective “In Our Eyes” echoes the enchanting soft-rock of Stevie Nicks’ early solo career, “Somebody” echoes the joyous funk-pop of Prince’s purple patch, while “DJ Ease My Mind” proves that the album isn’t just one big 80s homage, its atmospheric and organic house vibes thankfully bypassing the four-to-the-floor generic club sound its David Guetta-esque title suggests.
Instinct undeniably runs out of steam towards the end. “Love To The Test” is only remarkable for how unremarkable it is; “Winterheart” is a plodding slice of dub-reggae which appears to have wandered in from a different record altogether; and the trimmed-down version of closer “Under The Bridges” loses the grandiose appeal of its eight-minute epic original.
But against the odds, Niki & The Dove have managed to produce a largely engrossing album which stands out from the plethora of eccentric Swedish pop purveyors.
3.5 stars (out of 5)