Swedish electronic pop duo Malin Dahlstrom and Gustaf Karlof have been friends for more than a decade, but it was just two years ago that the Stockholm-based musicians teamed up to form Niki and the Dove.
"When we started working together it immediately felt like the right thing to do," says singer Dahlstrom , whose ethereal vocals evoke Kate Bush and Bjork. "Our work together has been very intuitive. It has been wordless, in a way."
"In the beginning, we didn't have any intention for an album," adds Karlof, who studied music in Gothenburg, Sweden, and briefly partnered with Dahlstrom in a folk band prior to forming Niki and the Dove. "It started with me and Malin making some songs purely for fun."
The pair's first release under the Niki and the Dove aegis - the knockout electronic pop opus "DJ, Ease My Mind" - arrived via U.K. independent label Moshi Moshi in 2010. Follow-up single "Mother Protect" drew a fawning response from tastemakers and helped the duo land a European deal with Mercury/Universal. For the United States, the group signed to Seattle's Sub Pop Records.
The first fruits of its Sub Pop deal arrived in June last year with the enchanting, left-field electro single "The Fox," followed in the fall by the seven-track EP "The Drummer," which was serviced to alternative, speciality and college formats. SiriusXM, KITS San Francisco, KEXP Seattle and KCRW Los Angeles were among the group's earliest adopters in the States. A run of U.S. live dates and a series of critically acclaimed shows at this year's South by Southwest festival in Austin further whet appetites for Niki and the Dove's studio debut, "Instinct," which will be physically released Aug. 7.
The self-produced album, bringing together the pair's various singles, mixes a rich bed of clattering, primal percussion; haunting melodies; and lush, multilayered electronic orchestration. Released digitally June 12, it bowed at No. 48 on the Heatseekers Albums chart with nearly 1,000 sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In the United Kingdom, where Niki and the Dove came in fifth on the BBC's prestigious "Sound of 2012" poll, "Instinct" has sold more than 4,000 units following its May bow, according to the Official Charts Co.
To support Instinct, Niki and the Dove are embarking on a joint headlining tour with 4AD-signed Twin Shadow, beginning Sept. 5 at Tricky Falls in El Paso, Texas. A U.S. release of "DJ, Ease My Mind" will coincide with the trek, which is booked by Doug Croy at the Windish Agency and wraps Sept. 27 at New York's Webster Hall.
Karlof shies away from naming specific influences, but concedes that the pair's native homeland helped shape the gothic drama inherent in its songs. "In Sweden, there's a lot of mystique around our forests and the night," he says. "We're influenced by it in a subconscious way."
"I don't mind being called 'melancholy' or 'dark,'" Dahlstrom adds. "If somebody asked me, that's not what I would say, but, maybe, it's OK if someone else says so."