Swedish electro-pop duo David Lehnberg and Elin Lindfors, known collectively as The Deer Tracks, are clearly a prolific and ambitious pair. This album completes a trilogy of conceptually linked recordings all made within the space of two years. Whereas their compatriots The Knife have veered into more turbulent waters with their meta-music and questioning of the conventions of performance, there are moments on Part 3 of The Archer trilogy that might have sat comfortably on Deep Cuts. This is playful and eccentric music full of character, but it’s also melodic, atmospheric and carefully arranged.
It begins superbly with III, a mesmerising chorale of swirling voices that serves as an intriguing overture. Vocal arrangements play a key role in this music’s sound and impact. W makes great use of a contrast between abrasive solo vocals and its more arranged sections. This neatly complements the well crafted, intelligent arrangement, which gradually seems to become more and more layered with synths and irresistible pizzicato string sounds. There are hints of both Björk and The Knife here, but there is also a resolute strangeness and solipcism that is entirely of this duo’s own making.
There are plenty of contrasts between the pieces, but it nevertheless seems to cohere impressively around a potent, absorbing atmosphere and mood. Divine Light is particularly excellent, its delicate, deceptively simple melodic motif being appropriately supported by the rising and falling contours of the accompaniment. The overall sound somehow manages to be both accessible and unfamiliar, gentle and soothing but also seemingly portending something more disquieting.
Astral Ship is considerably brighter, perhaps even uplifting, making full use of more ‘live’ instrumentation, including drums and percussion. Its initial vocal ticks prove a little misleading as the song is actually one of the group’s least strange, although the angular rhythms behind the melody offset its immediacy somewhat. Red Eyed Zebra, with its slight, wispy vocal, sprightly phrasing and emphasis on higher frequencies feels a little more whimsical, although its undeniable prettiness renders it curiously appealing.
The album’s second half suffers from some awkward juxtapositions and some unusual shifts in tone. Oddly, it’s Lazarus, the track around which some buzz has built for the band, that sounds the most uncomfortable when placed in context. It is a distinctly peculiar hybrid of eccentric, dark pop, rave anthem and potential Eurovision entry. Weirder still is Explodion, which veers suddenly and unexpectedly between twitchy syncopated rhythms and explosions of something perilously close to stadium rock. At the very least, it’s engaging and surprising, if not entirely successful.
Still, this kind of restless experimentation is the sign of an act willing to take risks and embark on adventures. The Archer Part 3 is the work of a band fascinated by sound and the possibilities of contrasts. Here are two musicians who never seem to go for the easy, comfortable option.