Swedish boy-girl duo The Deer Tracks are another exponent of thatbrand of whimsical yet strangely sinister ‘folktronica’ that it seemscan only be produced in those countries located in the far north ofEurope that often go months without seeing daylight. With itstwinkling melodies, childlike chanted vocals and music box rhythms,The Archer Trilogy Pt 2 could be the soundtrack to The Moomins,the weirdly creepy Finnish kids TV show, or the accompaniment to apagan ritual taking place in a snow draped forest in a Wallandernovel.
Nordic stereotypes notwithstanding, The Deer Tracks’ second fulllength album is a skilfully constructed and frequently intriguingwork, but also one that may struggle to win new acolytes. It followshot on the heels of The Archer Trilogy Pt 1, a five track EP releasedearlier this year, and is very much a continuation of the style DavidLehnberg and Elin Lindfors have been developing since their 2008 debutAurora.
Both multi-instrumentalists, they create icily pretty layers ofsound that weave and burble gently before slowly building to quietlyepic crescendos. Most of the textures are created by synthesisers andlaptops, although some organic instruments are employed too. But themost integral ingredient to The Deer Tracks is those otherworldlyvoices. One may be male, the other female, but for the most part thegender is quite indistinguishable as they meld seamlessly togetherinto a sole, ghostly entity. Some folktronica can be fey and twee, butthe music here is just as frequently distorted, driving and darklycinematic as angelically sweet toothed.
While The Deer Tracks are in many ways akin to a number of otherNorthern European bands of recent years, notably the Icelandic actsMúm and Amiina, there are also wider influences at workon The Archer Trilogy Pt 2. The intricately programmed,pitter-pattering beats bring to mind Four Tet, while the swathes oflush keyboards and occasional stabs of dance floor dynamics on trackslike The Archer and Tiger bear similarities to the emotive electronicaof Caribou.
Fa Fire is the closest The Deer Tracks get to a proper rock song,gradually shifting through the gears until it takes flight with asoaring, string drenched chorus rather like Sigur Rós at theirmost commercial, although without quite attaining the same level ofethereal, elemental majesty. On the other hand, 1000 Vanda Kindershows the duo can be more minimal when the want to, with theingredients pared down to just an elegant, sparse piano and hushedvocals, and the album’s closing song, U-Turn, is three minutes ofdisembodied noise and spectral wailing. It’s only after a few listensthat some of the subtler touches on The Archer Trilogy Pt 2 start tobecome apparent, as immediate it certainly isn’t.
In a sense, this is the biggest problem that The Deer Tracks have- their songs just don’t stick in the memory. The sonic palette theyemploy is undeniably meticulously crafted, but it tends to washbenignly over the listener rather than really drawing you into theirworld. Those prepared to concentrate hard and really put the effortin will find much to reward them in Lehnberg and Lindfors’ complex,sometimes slightly cluttered compositions, but others seeking moreinstant gratification will probably find their maze of ideas a littletoo labyrinthine to penetrate.