Sweden produces some of the best electronic music in the world, as evidenced by the exhilarating Covenant show that hit Numbers two weeks ago. This time, Fitz's gets to host some Scandinavian beep-and-boopery, and it doesn't get any better than Niki & the Dove.
I first got into the band after covering their jaw-dropping animated music video "The Fox" directed by WINTR. Though it was the visuals that initially caught my eye, over the course of the rest of the year I started to hear that weird, semi-George Thorogood guitar riff in my head like some kind of hypnotic trigger, and strutting slightly to the wail of Malin Dahlström that echoes over it.
"Whenever she's weary, she climbs uphill and crosses a dark trail and there she finds the fox." You find yourself repeating these endless enigmatic lines about nature and dancing from Instinct over and over in your head like a mantra, which is a little strange considering that you can't really call the songs catchy.
Certainly I didn't start screaming out the word while driving like I did when I first heard Gagas's "Edge of Glory" or Goldfrapp's "Alive." Listening to Niki & the Dove takes more work than your average pop band. You have to pay attention, but it's also very important to be willing to let go and wander among the themes.
Of those, the natural world plays a big part with many songs, something else that sets them apart from the spiritual musings and futurpop of their colleagues and contemporaries. Especially in the early tracks such as "Mother Protect" and "The Gentle Roar" there's an amazing connection to the wilderness and forgotten pagan totems that no electronica act has managed since Asmodeus X's Wolf Age.
The primal thrills call to mind something like the Creatures' Hai!, but without Budgie and Leonard Ito owning all the percussion in the world. In other words, the probably the album that Siouxsie Sioux tried to put out went she went solo, but more or less failed to.
"We wanted to use animal symbols as a description for aspects of human character," says the band via email. "But nothing's new under the sun. That´s a way of interpretation that's been going on pretty much forever. So it´s classic.
At that time we were inspired by exhibitions by the pre-Rafaelites, by Caspar David Friedrich. We are also intrigued by William Blake, who was active at the same time as Friedrich. And we are lovers of the art of Rosseau, for example.
So it all made sense to go that way since we also at that time, spent a lot of time in the northern part of Sweden with a landscape of mountains and forest. It was all a very natural 'into something-ness' where everything around you sort of pointed in the same direction.
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Don't think that the album is nothing but hippy art music about animals, though. Where Niki & the Dove make their best connections is in the all powerful trance of rhythmic movement. The effects of dance as both a ritual and an escape make for a lot of lyrical themes, and when you back it by some truly revolutionary keyboard work you can't help but feel you've stumbled upon something spectacular. This is, after all, a band that owes a lot of its success to the song "DJ, Ease My Mind."
It's tunes like that, or 'The Drummer" where the constant motions of the heart are held as a backing track, that you see the true power of getting off your ass and onto the dance floor. Nothing exemplifies this like the almost nine-minute "Under the Bridges," which begins with a cinematic description of youth and night and furtive existence, but gradually rises into a frenzied rush of instrumental power that is like a damned black magic spell in its assault on a listener.
"The song would not mean the same thing without the outro," said the band. "It was one of the first songs we wrote together and the lyrics are one of a retrospect of the suburban teenage double life. The one your parents know of and the one they don´t."
Niki & the Dove play Sunday, September 16 at Fitzgerald's with Twin Shadows and Bang Bangz.