Popping Up: Niki & The Dove

emilytan | May 15, 2012 6:00 am

Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Madonna and Britney were once unknown, too.

The Swedes have struck yet again. The land of Volvos and meatballs has nurtured electro-pop trailblazers for decades now (Robyn, Miike Snow and Ace of Base among them). So it’s not at all surprising that our latest musical crush, SXSW breakout act Niki & The Dove, hail from the land of stylish yet affordable pre-fab Ikea furniture. A collaboration between singer Malin Dahlström and keyboardist/guitarist Gustaf Karlöf, who sometimes perform with live drums and “dancers”, Niki & The Dove has been building — and breaking — dance music since 2010.

FULL NAME: Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf

HOMETOWN: Stockholm, Sweden

WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE: It’s easy to draw parallels between Niki & The Dove and other electro-heavy indie acts like Zola Jesus and Bat for Lashes. Malin’s hauntingly delicate voice makes you feel like you’re entering a dream — if that dream had a soundtrack of sinister, near industrial-sounding production, jagged drums and the occasional pan flute.

In their own words, Niki & The Dove sounds like: “Tchiang, schiischwee, kabba kabba, chinhg chinhg, poof, bing bang and some flutes.” Ok!

BEGINNINGS: It all started with a song. The longtime friends became collaborators when Malin wrote “DJ, Ease My Mind” and asked Gustaf to help with the production. The duo teamed up with producer Elof Loelv to finish it, setting off a slew of songwriting sessions (that you can find on SoundCloud) and a series of music videos. With all that work under their belts, the pair decided to make it official, and Niki & The Dove was born. On the origin of the name, the band says it’s “Anything you want it to be.”

Niki & The Dove, “DJ, Ease My Mind”

EARLY BUZZ: Named one of the BBC’s Sounds of 2012, Niki & the Dove play to packed crowds all over Europe, but are just starting to make waves on our side of the pond. Signed to Sub Pop, they first caught our attention in March during Austin’s SXSW Music Festival. (We caught them at the Hype Hotel party.) The band’s latest single, “Tomorrow,” was recently featured on Gawker, and their latest music video “The Fox” debuted on MTVHive.

Niki & The Dove, “The Fox”

INFLUENCES: The band is cryptic about the artists and themes that inspire them. Asked during our interview about who their influences are, they responded, “There [are] great things happening these days. But it is a revelation to occupy your brain with other things than music when you want fuel. For example, words or pictures.” Whatever that means!

So to figure out where this music came from, you need only look to Niki & The Dove’s eclectic live show. To watch the nymphlike Malin perform is to witness something akin to the spirit of Robyn inhabiting the body of Stevie Nicks, all icy Nordic vocals swathed in ethereal layers, languid hand movements and spinning. Then there are those shades of native peoples and indigenous cultures that you see not not only in Malin’s costuming — she often uses tribal makeup and feathers — but in the off-kilter drumming and chanting.

Niki & The Dove, “The Drummer”

ON THE HORIZON: Niki & The Dove are currently touring their first full-length, Instinct, in Europe this summer.

What do you think of Niki & The Dove? Tell us in the comments below, or on Twitter and Facebook.