Niki & The Dove - Instinct

by Mark Hammond Rating:5 Release Date:2012-05-14

In recent years Sub Pop has made a concerted effort to sever the apron strings/flannel shirt tied around their Levis. At one time a veritable musical hegemony, Sub Pop introduced one of the biggest musical movements of the last 30 years to the world. Now it seems to be losing interest in the Fender Jaguar and is instead focussing on samplers and software.

In fairness, the label has never really been niche; in recent memory Sub Pop released records by Flight of the Conchords and David Cross. Continuing with the expansion and eclecticism of their roster, Poneman, Tony Kiewel (head of the label's A&R department) et al have signed, amongst others, the superb THEESatisfaction, Shabazz Palaces and Washed Out.

In keeping with this direction is the label's latest acquisition, Niki& the Dove. Hailing from Stockholm, the duo of Malin Dahlstrom and Gustaf Karlof have been writing music since February 2010. Indie label Moshi Moshi put their first single out, which seems to make a lot more sense than Sub Pop, at least on initial consideration. Bedfellows on the UK label included Hot Chip, Architecture in Helsinki and Florence & the Machine - which leads neatly to the debut album, Instinct.
As soon as album opener 'Tomorrow' gets rolling I realise how much this has in common with the aforementioned Florence, which is a little off-putting. I'm not a fan. Someone I am a fan of, however, whom I am loathe to mention as she has become the ubiqutious point of reference for any female vocalist making electro-tinged music in the present climate, is clearly present in Niki and the Dove's music. Dahlstrom's strident voice is inescapably evocative of the theatricality of Kate Bush's unmistakable delivery.
Comparisons come quite easily in fact, so derivative is Instinct at times. 'In Our Eyes' is 80s Fleetwood Mac at their catchiest; 'Mother Protect' swells with too many layers, recalling Grimes before making a dramatic u-turn halfway through and 'Somebody' manages to evince His Royal Badness, Prince. Everything else sounds like a composite of all of the above with Bjork and even Enya thrown into the mix. This makes for a garbled pop-gumbo of an album which never truly manages to orient itself. There is one glorious moment; 'The Fox' is underpinned by an infectiously cunning bass riff that proves to be the most rewarding of the 12 tracks.
Too busy and too referential, Instinct is nonetheless an interesting hymn to Sub Pop's evolution.

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