Niki & The Dove – The Drummer EP (Sub Pop Records)

November 7, 2011 by  

The Swedish duo are back with their second EP of the year, pounding our eardrums and any resistance to their charms to a pulp with ‘The Drummer’. This seven song collection boasts some of the first wholly instrumental work we’ve heard from the band, while exploring new sonic terrain for them in other ways. Together Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf weave a series of different tales on the record but never stray too far from their electrifying pop roots.

Unlike most three to four song EPs knocking around at the minute, ‘The Drummer’ somehow manages to sound like a concept album condensed into less than thirty minutes. As ever, Dahlström and Karlöf build tracks from layers of pagan pop, but don’t sound repititive or formulaic at any one point. Atmospheric opener ‘Sundog’ acts like an instrumental slide into the bubbling and bouncing pit of lead track ‘The Drummer’. Trying not to dance to this chorus should be made into some sort of measure of one’s resolve against the temptation of a near-perfect refrain. It is quite simply a full-blown beauty, filled with rippling synths and Dahlström’s typically soaring wail.

Niki & The Dove dip into slow-jam territory on ‘Last Night’, maintaining its intensity while mellowing the pace. This mid-tempo range has always suited their slow-burning methods, and the elements of sass and tight rhythmic patterns on this track keep the listener engaged. Without straying too far from a recognisable sound they splice unexpected lilting vocal lines flush alongside the staccato delivery that’s becoming a part of Dahlström’s trademark. It’s all rather inspired. It somehow also has underlying tones of the production normally found on early nineties pop tunes, rubbed over with a more sinister edge.

It’s easy to imagine these two playing the EP out in some sort of futuristic party, where everyone finally dresses the way they did in The Jetsons while shaking and shimmying to the duo’s textured offerings. Only on ‘Manon’ do they seem to really take a leaf out of the book of someone like Bjork, placing aural tribalism alongside an almost operatic sound. The gasps and breaths underlying Karlöf’s synths definitely recall moments from the Icelandic star’s vocal-driven ‘Medulla’ yet never come off sounding like parody or uninventive imitation.

These two are carving out their own space in that domain occupied by those who have the guts to inject a sense of adventure back into pop. It’s never over-bearing or too inaccessible but you always have the feeling that Niki & The Dove don’t compromise on their creative vision for the sake of what may or may not sell units. All in all, this record is impressive and is likely to have fans and critics alike salivating in anticipation of their full-length release next year.

Rating: ★★★★½

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