Despite being the only full-length installment in The Deer Tracks’ unusual trio of releases, The Archer Trilogy Pt. 2 doesn’t make the precise nature of the central ‘Archer’ theme any clearer. That the duo alternate between singing in English and Swedish makes it hard to pick up on any recurrent themes, but luckily their music, in all its fluffy sweetness and easiness on the ear, enables the listener to simply set aside their conceptual confusions and take it as it comes.
In comparison, it’s relatively straightforward to buy into the album’s Bon Iver-esque back story. Apparently The Deer Tracks’ two core members Elin Lindfors and David Lehnberg retreated to a remote cabin belonging to Lindfors’ grandmother where there were no phone lines, no other human company and only one slightly rickety computer. But here, again, The Deer Tracks are surprising. For while that recording setup typically promises an album of sparse, acoustic, desolate music, The Archer Trilogy Pt. 2 wears its bucolic origins rather more lightly. Indeed, at times, it’s positively banging: more redolent of glistening, nocturnal cityscapes than forests and fields.
Singing duties are shared between Lehnberg and Lindfors, but it’s the latter’s voice that dominates, although ‘dominates’ is perhaps too purposeful a word to describe her singing. It has the same sweetly dolorous – though ever so slightly characterless – quality that’s shared by fellow Scandinavian Annie, and ensures that even the album’s most musically euphoric moments have a deliciously melancholic quality. Those familiar with The Deer Tracks will know them for their take on melodic electronic pop, typically embellished with strings and woodwinds, but the first two minutes of Pt. 2 opener ‘Meant To Be’ suggests a considerably more challenging listen. The warm, billowing keyboard lines and Lindfors’ childlike vocals are suddenly beset by jagged shards of electric guitar that pull the composition disconcertingly out of shape before the dawning of an insistent, sturdy beat kicks it back into place.
At times – as on album highlight ‘Fra Ro Raa / Ro Ra Fraa’ – the music has a glitchy, granular quality that’s reminiscent of Björk’s Vespertine. Elsewhere, on the sleek, orchestrated pop of ‘The Archer’ and ‘Tiger’, The Deer Tracks sound weirdly similar to Saint Etienne. ’Fa-Fire’ (“Sometimes I wish I could break your neck / just to give you a reality check”) is more purposeful still, with a nimble bridge that gives way to series of crescendos on the chorus that venture uncomfortably into Snow Patrol-style power ballad territory. Fortunately, tracks like ‘Dark Passenger’, with its arrhythmic drum machine pulses, and the strange, elliptical closer ‘U-Turn’ ensure that the album is tethered to leftfield ground.
Ultimately, the grand-sounding title and log cabin genesis serve as distractions from what is a very good electronic pop album – one that’s likely to appeal to fans of Annie, Lykke Li and The Knife. The Deer Tracks won’t lead the listener to anything especially distinctive or life-altering, but they’re well worth following all the same.
[The Control Group/ADA; August 22, 2011]