Niki & The Dove: Swedish Pop Duo Stands For Light, Color, and Freedom of Sound"/>
The cover of the Swedish pop duo Niki & The Dove's first album, Instinct, pictures bandmates Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf in front of a bright blue sky and huge full moon. A shooting star streaks across one corner, while a tropical green forest sits in the background. Karlöf's jacket is studded with jewels; Dahlström, wearing a breastplate with multicolored wings, swoons across his shoulder.
"The vision [for the artwork] was something that is such a precise word in Swedish: Hötorgskonst. When I try to say it in English, it doesn't come through," Dahlström says. "It means that...in Times Square, for example, there are certain artists that sit there and they paint in a certain style, it's a certain aesthetic. [They] paint wolves looking at the moon, or horses running in mist."
This splashy aesthetic matches the feathery headpieces and streaks of glittery face paint that Dahlström wears in photoshoots and onstage. "We wanted to go against the minimalistic black that reigns in Sweden," she says. "We wanted to do color. We wanted color as a statement of something that isn't in power. All the things in power in the world are somewhat restrained and very conformed in their color, and things that are under power are in color. We didn't want to signal... We wanted to... ." She hesitates, searching for the right words in English. "We wanted to communicate freedom!"
Dahlström is speaking from her hometown of Gothenburg, where she and Karlöf are rehearsing for a fall tour of the U.S. to promote Instinct, which was released in August by Sub Pop Records. The album features 14 cutting pop tracks with a disparity of sound that goes along with the duo's touchstones of freedom and color: Some spike with sharp beats ("The Fox," "Tomorrow"), some glow with burnished passion ("DJ, Ease My Mind," "In Our Eyes"). Dahlström's distinctively icy vocals tie them all together.
Karlöf, who's known Dahlström for over 10 years, recalls, "The first time I met Malin was when I heard her singing with her guitar, and it was so beautiful. I envied the piano player that played with her, and I said to myself, 'That's gonna be my goal, to be that piano player.'"
Niki & The Dove play Bumbershoot's Sub Pop Stage this Sunday, September 2, at 1:30 p.m.