With fellow Scandinavian electro-duo Röyskopp appearing to call it quits with the release of The Inevitable End, it seems that the time is right for Korallreven to follow up their rapturously well received 2011 debut, An Album By Korallreven, with the similarly literally-entitled Second Comin’, a second effort three years in the making; or, rather, a record that gestated while its predecessor steadily amassed converts.
In the wake of critical acclaim, Marcus Joons and Daniel Tjäder find themselves with expectations to meet. One may expect that their bold approach – appending chart-like anthems to dense, relatively complex arrangements – lends itself to such a task, and that the pair would treat heightened anticipation as if it were a boon rather than a burden. Has that proven to be the case on one of the highlight releases of the autumn?
Death Is Not For Us sets out the stall as its tabla drums are quickly augmented by stabbing synths and a dance-grade percussion track. Allusions to the Far East float throughout Joons’ lyrics, delivered in such a fashion that he sounds at once uninterested and smitten. It’s all very Thievery Corporation, if a little more euphoric than the Washington collective’s trademark sound. Spirit Away adopts a similar hands-in the-air stance, guest vocalist China Yggstrom delivering soaring, house-style lines over tight rhythms and a practically irresistible progression.
Threats retains Balearic flavours but reins in the abandon: the many elements of the mix are not so much thrust into the spotlight as encouraged to grow, minor key subtleties afforded just enough space to poke their heads through the bombast. While The Highest State Of Grace does away with such sensitivities – its lead riff a shape-throwing power play – its successor track, Limitless, is more suited to the morning after than the night before: humming, gently pulsating chords are overlaid with bare piano before a metronomic kick drum and Joons’ existential lamentations lend the affair a certain cinematic quality.
The album’s second half kicks off with its title track, a sample-laden crescendo in which Korallreven take the BPM down a notch. It turns out to be an invigorating breather before two guest spots threaten to steal the show. First, on Try Anything Once, Japanese legend Cornelius lends his particular brand of alchemical doo-wop, making a world-beater of what is already one of the strongest tracks on display; Maria Lindén of I Break Horses then makes an appearance on the transcendent Mantras, her duet with Joons taking place against a shimmering mix laden with organic elements. She returns for eight-minute closing number Ki, which builds steadily from tropical ambience to multifaceted masterpiece. “What do you care about?” Lindén asks repeatedly. “Love,” comes Joons’ patient-yet-enraptured response.
Even set against elevated expectancy, Korallreven have on their hands a startlingly good comeback. Second Comin’ excels because it shows off their deft-handedness without ever being showy; it offers hook after hook without resorting to gimmickry; its deference for the dance floor is expertly tempered by a range eastern influences. A landmark in synthpop canon, and surely one of the year’s most satisfyingly complete releases.