Niki and the Dove The Drummer EP Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Superbly bright modern pop arrangements, highlighted by neon lamplight.

Mike Diver 2011

Stockholm’s Niki and the Dove follow in the band-name footsteps of Esben and the Witch, where there’s neither a Niki (an Esben) nor a Dove (Witch) in the outfit’s line-up. Like the Brighton-based gloom-scapers, the Swedes recall recognisable strands of retro electronica; but rather than paint in shades born of ground-up forest-floor detritus and seaside flotsam to convey weighty emotion, this lot dazzle with superbly bright arrangements, highlighted by neon lamplight. Songs leap out of the speakers like chocolate-loaded Oompa-Loompas sporting Prince masks while carrying Robyn’s latest 12" of remixes under their arms. It doesn’t take too long for The Drummer EP (seven tracks, three of which are interlude-style shorties) to leave an impression – there’s evidently a reason this lot are being tipped for success in 2012.

At least, that Purple-One-turns-Fembot parallel holds for the opener, the excellent title-track. It fizzes and pulses, eventually bursting into the sort of chorus – "I’m a drum, I’m a drum now / It’s what makes me human," singer Malin Dahlström informs us – that can set the nerve endings electric in a corpse. It’s modern pop done perfectly, shiny enough to subvert the apparent heartache at its centre into a voicing of passionate independence. The duo – completed by Gustaf Karlöf, the act’s songwriter – changes their spots somewhat for the following Last Night. A delightful mid-pace ballad with awesomely eerie undercurrents, it’s something like Fever Ray taping over a bunch of T’Pau cassettes while fellow Swedes Little Dragon look on with envious eyes. Then Mother Protect opens like Post-period Björk taking five in a dojo, shadows altering attack stances all around her – until, that is, Dahlström pulls out a Kate Bush-worthy vocal at around the three-minute mark that sucks the air from the rest of the track like a black hole of irresistible brilliance.

Manon sounds like something of an afterthought compared to the preceding cuts, under-developed when placed beside the fuller-feeling arrangements of The Drummer EP. Its percussion sits low in the mix, Dahlström taking centre stage with a powerful yet supple performance; again, there’s something of the Far East in the embellishments, the oriental twinkles at the peripheries of the piece. But its presence is welcomed, presenting a softer side of the act which bodes well for variety come their debut album. The breakout pop act of 2012? They’re maybe a little too esoteric for that, and will need to find their own clear identity among the many influences they channel so well. But critics are likely to love a Niki and the Dove long-player like it’s another Sign o’ the Times.

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