Niki & The Dove – who contain neither a Niki nor a dove, but a woman called Malin Dahlström, a man named Gustaf Karlöf and third member Magnus Böqvist, who prefers to stay out of the limelight – have received a raft of enthusiastic notices over the past year or so off the back of a pair of well-received singles (the clattering, sinister ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ and the epic ‘Mother Protect’) and a debut EP (The Fox) that maintained the quality assurance the world has come to expect when the words ‘Swedish’ and ‘electropop’ are used in the same sentence. The hype, then, has already been justified so what are we to make of the seven songs on the trio’s latest EP, The Drummer?
Though you wouldn’t necessarily know it to hear them there’s a central theme at work here, a musical abstraction of the desert as a vast expanse and borderline. With the atmospheric, scene-setting instrumental ‘Sundog’ out of the way, things get off to a pulsating start with the title track, lyrics drawn from adrenaline and fear giving the layered synths an emotional charge. It sounds like The Knife if The Knife’s chief aim was to fill dancefloors rather than to scare people, and bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Armand Van Helden’s 1999 smash ‘You Don’t Know Me’. It is, in short, completely brilliant.
‘Last Night’ slows the tempo down to R&B levels to create a smouldering, sexy track, and is followed by the very welcome reappearance of ‘Mother Protect’, housed here in slightly tweaked form. After a restrained opening two minutes, Niki & The Dove abandon all attempts at subtlety and unleash some glorious pan pipes that sound as though they’ve been hauled directly from Kate Bush’s studio circa 1985. It’s a noise that’s certain to push the pleasure buzzers of any pop-minded listener over the age of thirty, and the (actually huge-sounding) breakdown in which Dahlström bellows “You can’t keep me down / I am done, I am furious!” remains one of Niki & The Dove’s most exhilarating musical moments.
After that thrilling trio of tracks, however, the EP peters out somewhat. ‘Breath Of The World’ is another glitchy instrumental that goes nowhere, slowly; the call-to-arms ‘Manon’ is wispy, repetitive, and a bit annoying; and ‘The Birth Of The Sun’ provides a shapeless, forgettable closer. The manner in which The Drummer moves from pin-sharp pop perfection to abstract ambient forms suggests that Niki & The Dove will be flitting between the two when their full-length debut drops in early 2012. Let’s hope they stick mostly to the former mode, because they’re so much better at it.
[Sub Pop; October 17, 2011]