Gustaf Karlöf, one-half of Swedish duo Niki & The Dove, is trying to explain how describing music is basically impossible. “We hate that,” he says. “Describing Prokofiev, describing Britney Spears— it’s always a surprise when you hear it.” Ironically, these two off-the-cuff examples mirror the dichotomous tension that exists in the music that Karlöf and co-songwriter Malin Dahlström make, a hypnotic concoction that combines elements of ethereal Scan- dinavian folk with throbbing electro beats. Witness the track “DJ, Ease My Mind,” which builds from spare, ambient beginnings to a stately thing of clang- ing, towering menace. But with a charming sense of mischief, the pair assert that this mystical blend is almost incidental. “We don’t have a plan when we’re making music,” says Karlöf. “We aim to actually maybe lose a little control of the song, to let the song make its own way. We don’t want to lock ourselves in.”
Karlöf and Dahlström first met in Gothenburg in 1999 while creating music for the theater, and a sense of drama still permeates their songwriting. Their partnership has taken some twists and turns—in 2007 they played together in folk troupe The Dora Steins. But a transition into their current incarnation, as well as a move to Stockholm, has led them to the release of Instinct (Sub Pop), their debut album as Niki & The Dove, which is due out this summer. For her part, Dahlström describes completing the record with something like melancholy. “I tend to prefer being in the middle of something,” she muses. Adds Karlöf, “When you finish something, it’s always an emotion mixed with fright.” The pair needn’t worry. In the U.K., they finished fifth on the BBC’s presti- gious Sound Of 2012 list, and they’re planning an extensive tour of the U.S. in the fall.
PHOTO: MALIN DAHLSTRÖM (LEFT) AND GUSTAF KARLÖF (RIGHT) IN LONDON,FEBRUARY 2012. ALL CLOTHING: BURBERRY PRORSUM. STYLING: KAREN CLARKSON. COSMETICS: NARS COSMETICS,INCLUDING SATIN LIPSTICK IN CASABLANCA. HAIR PRODUCTS: TIGI BED HEAD,INCLUDING SPOIL ME. HAIR: YUMI NAKADA-DINGLE. MAKEUP: NAOKO SCINTU/ BALCONY JUMP. PHOTO ASSISTANTS: RUDI GEYSER AND FABIO AFFUSO.