Niki And The Dove – ‘Instinct’

It's some heady medicine

Spirit animals bound, prowl and pounce through Niki And The Dove’s debut. Also hurricanes, crystals and visions. Our Swedish duo can pump out all the dry ice they want and singer Malin Dahlström can streak her cheeks like Stevie Nicks on the trapeze, but they can’t disguise themselves: no animist shamans these, but precise technicians. They’ve worked out the perfect balance of elements to induce that almost painful rush of euphoria when your brain is startled by a sudden chord and drops every hormone it has into your bloodstream. It’s almost cruel. They are CERN, the European Organization For Nuclear Research, wrapped in a whooshy cloak, and you are an albino rabbit, witless and blinking in their particle beam.

They use elements freely available. Here a Mac, there a Knife, everywhere a Prince. But it’s the magic of combination, when a mysterious catalyst appears from nowhere that makes it. Take ‘Tomorrow’, prickly with the excitement of secret liaisons, creeping in on tip-toe, before hurtling into an icewater-dunk-and-gasp of a chorus. “I wanna waste my love on you, like a pearl merchant” cries Dahlström, referencing the Biblical parable of the Pearl Of Great Price, which asks: are you willing to give up everything for the kingdom of heaven? Her sweet vixen yowl assures you she would.

They’re at their strongest when at their hardest, as on the odd scissoring of ‘The Fox’ or the tribal, overhead-train-evoking clatter of ‘Under The Bridges’. Probably most so on ‘The Drummer’, with its clipped beats, needling synths and that flushed, racing rhythm. As Dahlström puts it: “Oh, love, rhythm/The pounding of my heart/I’m a drum, I’m a drum now/It is what makes me human”.

Where they’re less successful is when the energy lags, and you start to see the constituent parts. ‘In Our Eyes’ has echoes of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Gypsy’, gaseous synths like an ’80s Pat Benatar power ballad, ending in a tip of the hat to Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. They’re better when they steer clear of Ladyhawke’s turf. ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ is a phenomenon, thundering drums, the sudden shudder into the chorus: heartbroken regret boiled away in the euphoric musical moment, “play that song again, ’cos we were in love”.

If there’s any quibble, it’s that for followers of Niki And The Dove, most of this material is familiar. But now their name is widespread, they deserve to have the whole world hear these songs. Heck, they deserve some sort of Nobel Pop Prize.

Emily Mackay