Not really knowing what to expect from the Swedish “indietronica” duo, Malin Dahlstrom and Gustaf Karlof floored us at Union Trasnfer last night. Here are some observations:
1. On guaging the need to be present for Vacationer, Niki & The Dove’s opener, I trusted my friend and concert-going partner’s assessement of the urgency on this matter. He concluded that “On the Rihanna scale, they’re just “Shut Up And Drive.”" ‘Nuff said.
2. Dahlstrom bursts with charm. With a kind of giggly and modest charm, she and her music-making partner were really excited to be here in Phiadelphia. They actually chose to kick off a large slew of national tour dates right here and they were humble and thankful for the warm receptiont they got.
3. She’s got a delightful mix of voices that come out of her. Her voice is unique and powerful, but it’s so easy to tease out the familiar lady voices that we’ve grown to know and love in our beguiling females of indie rock. In order of presence, her pipes sound descendent of: Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Martha Wainwright and Stevie Nicks.
4. She had a three-mic setup, which was something curious at the beginning of the set when we weren’t sure how she’d use three mics – were they just to triple-amplify her? Nope. They each had a tone and a function: the center mic was her normal mic and the sound was spot-on. To her left, she used this one for weird times; to add a little psychedlia or haunting creepery. It was distorted and affected her voice in a way that contributed more to the tones of distortion, hypntoic chaos and controlled mayhem. The last and third mic, to her right, was awesome but I’m pretty sure she only used it once. It made her sound like a dude; a funky, deep-voiced robotic child of Parliament Funkadelic All-Stars and Robyn.
5. In a slightly surprising turn of events, the show turned into a dance party. We commented afterwards, it was hard NOT to dance. Karlof was a maven at tweaking and manipulating a mysteriously versatile and magical keyboard. There was only one stand-alone bass drum on stage that Karlof only beat on for a few different songs. All other rhythmic and aural brouhaha was created by Karlof (save for a much simpler and smaller keyboard that Dahlstrom occasionally tinkered on). Certain beats and rhythms were drawn out into hypnotic drones and grooves that made it easy to make it Snacks for more of the same.
6. For two people on stage, they made a lot of noise. It was impressive. And they were so damn cute. Karlof, especially, gave a heartwarming speech before the end of their initial set in which he lauded Philadelphia as a great city and a wonderful place to kick off their tour; and that they were touched to receive such a positive response from us.
7. Queer people were present. We know how to keep our finger on the pulse of witchy, supernaturally-flavored electronica fronted by a strong, beguiling female frontwoman. (See #3)
8. When we first walked in, the security guy told us to go get some Hip City Veg. I’d heard that HCV had made it to UT but I was curious about what they had – if they had a Chick’n Club, I might’ve just housed one right then and there. But they just have tacos and popcorn and hippie drinks.
9. For an encore, they came out and did “The Fox.” It was toally rad. It’s the single I posted with my preview on Monday and, out of the singles they’ve made videos for, this was the one I was most excited about. It is one wild, funky groove with that low-riding bassy beat. And as soon as it came in in the first few seconds, we were glad we stayed.
10. For a few songs, she donned a quirky lil’ floral headdress and I was pumped to get a photo of her in all her precious, peculiar Swedish glory.
Niki & The Dove are one of those bands that’s actually refreshing and exciting. They’re a band that I heard for the first time listening to records for On The Record, our weekly record-reviewing column. Their debut last summer, Instinct, is EXCELLENT. They’re Swedish and showcase the alluring talent of Malin Dahlstrom, the chief vocalist and charming frontwoman. Their brand of creep funk is characteristically Nordic and therefore could be in the same musical family as Austra, Bjork and The Knife. Pretty cool family.
In performances, they’re a trio that basically just uses a keyboard, drums and Dahlstrom’s smoky, sinewy voice. There’s gotta be some samples somewhere, too, because it’s hard to imagine just two instruments and a voice can recreate the richness of this record. Last time they were in Philly they were at Union Transfer opening up for Twin Shadow. But it seems their appeal is catching on and now they’re back to be the main attraction.
For fans of trip-hop, electronica and indie dance music, this is a brilliant blend of pop music. And with backgrounds in theater and dance, this show’s going to be a mesmerizing event. Tickets are $15 with Vacationer opening. Doors are at 8p, so Niki & Co. should be on stage by 9:30p.