Review : Korallreven - An Album by Korallreven
PopmattersSwedish dream-pop duo Korallreven have never played live, have shrouded themselves in mystery, and have spent the last two years trickling out singles and mixtapes online. Such strategies aimed at capturing the attention of a blogosphere hungry for new music have become a familiar part of the music world in 2011, but Marcus Joons and Daniel Tjäder have proved more adept than most. To a significant subset of web tastemakers hooked on the duo’s serene and tropical electronica, An Album by Korallreven is now one of the most eagerly anticipated records of the year. But while these ten twinkling compositions offer more of the same to those already on board, their potential for longer-term acceptance by the outside world is more doubtful.
Part of what has made all the hype over Korallreven so compelling is that the project has such a good origin story. Several years ago Marcus Joons experienced a musical epiphany of sorts while on holiday in the tiny South Pacific state of Samoa: suddenly confident of “how he wanted the pop music of his dreams to be”, he recruited Tjäder (of dream-pop band The Radio Dept.) while the two lived in Malmö. While exotic escapism has long been an influence on pop musicians from snowy Sweden, the very specific quasi-spiritual experience Joons had in Samoa is the glue that holds this debut together. The backing vocals are influenced by Samoan church choirs, the name of the place is chanted on the songs, and the sounds of warm waves lap at the edges of the bubbling synths. “Korallreven” is not only the Swedish word for “coral reef”, it also sounds like the Samoan for “spirituality”.
True to the escapist nature of pop, what Joons and Tjäder are selling here is a kind of fantasy. In a very real sense, An Album is their South Pacific postcard, a bid to capture for us a sense of how it would feel to be as Joons was, sat on a beach in paradise running away from ourselves. It is easy to imagine that the intricate layering of choir, keyboards and soft beats on “Sa Sa Samoa” might correlate somehow to that experience, soothing and pristine as it is. It is not much harder to grasp how this or Victoria Bergsman’s guest vocal on the more upbeat and bouncy “Honey Mine” could seduce those bloggers with a finger on the pulse of Scandinavian dream pop....full text
PitchforkMore than two years passed between Swedish duo Korallreven's first single, the glittering, acoustically-tinged "Loved-Up", and their full-fledged debut LP, An Album by Korallreven. In internet years, that's practically a decade, but then, Korallreven and their fellow countrymen work at a pace that exists outside normal measurements of time (the exception being jj, who seemingly churn out slices of heavy-lidded pop at will). It took Korallreven close to a year to follow "Loved-Up" with last year's "The Truest Faith"; the arrival of An Album by Korallreven itself was promised for later in 2010. Considering bedroom dreamers have been waiting four years (and counting) for a follow-up to Gothenburg duo the Tough Alliance's A New Chance, though, maybe we're lucky An Album by Korallreven exists at all.
They do have things in common with the Tough Alliance beyond citizenship and a leisurely working pace: Both acts are duos, both embrace a color palette of popular music so widespread it's difficult to describe what they make with a catch-all descriptor, and both ultimately draw deep from indie pop's dewy-eyed tradition (Korallreven especially-- one half of the band's Daniel Tjäder, who spends time leafing through the Sarah and Labrador catalogues as a member of the Radio Dept.) For all their sentiments, the Tough Alliance are also arch and fairly political; Korallreven, on the other hand, are more concerned with surface beauty, applying layers of gauze that add immense, weightless density to their own pop delicacies.
In a sense, it's music that you don't necessarily have to think about, which is fine, of course-- even the most bookish of Sincerely Yours/Service/Acéphale completists need something to lose themselves in now and again. The album's shortest cut, "A Surf on Endorphins", is a redux of "The Truest Faith"'s rolling theme, awash in coyote howls and static distance. As its title suggests, the song's meant to provoke emotion, albeit far from the energized sort. During the bleeping, hypnotic centerpiece "Keep Your Eyes Shut", the phrase, "A dream within a dream," is repeated like a mantra....full text
PrettymuchamazingAn Album by Korallreven is the unimaginatively titled debut from Swedish dream pop duo Korallreven, but don’t let it fool you – this record is far from unimaginative. Daniel Tjader and Marcus Joons (of The Radio Dept.) have used their vast imaginations to record an eclectic, psychedelic, genre-defying album. After a few minutes of listening, the real reason for the title starts to become clear: Tjader and Joons are refusing to take things too seriously.
This isn’t to say the album is a joke – there are a number of perfectly crafted pop songs on An Album by Korallreven. However, there are also many bizarre, apparently ironic, ones. For example, the trippy ‘Keep Your Eyes Shut’ begins inexplicably with a clip of dialogue, presumably taken from a film, which is then followed by the words “a dream within a dream” continuously repeated, accompanied by the sound of midi trumpet. Not much else happens; it’s like a song that the character Howard Moon would start singing in an episode of The Mighty Boosh.
And it’s just as enjoyable. As is the case with many of the songs on the record, rather than coming across as unintentionally corny, ‘Keep Your Eyes Shut’ feels tongue-in-cheek. Another example of this is the ridiculous, synthesized guitar and chimes used on the chilled out ‘The Truest Faith’. Pop music used to employ these sounds seriously, and Korallreven are simultaneously paying homage and poking fun. And they’re managing to make great music at the same time.
Although Korallreven have a definite it’s-all-fun-and-games approach to music, they also have a competitive streak. Second track, ‘Sa Sa Samoa’, is centered around Julianna Barwick’s sublime choral chanting, and the result is breathtaking, sounding like the soundtrack to Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. Album highlights, ‘Comin’ Closer’ and ‘Honey Mine’ are outstanding, clear-cut pop songs, and will likely go on to define 2011. The former has a synth hook and snare beat that will burrow deep into the back of your mind, refusing to leave for weeks, while the latter is a seductive dub groove, vaguely reminiscent of Blondie’s Autoamerican era.
An Album by Korallreven is unfocused, funny and strange. And that’s why it’s a triumph. Korallreven aren’t afraid to have fun and try their hands at everything, and it’s refreshing to see a band not taking themselves too seriously. Ending with a nine minute track of ambience (‘Comin’ Down’) may have been a step too far, but overall the record is slick, playful and irritatingly memorable....full text
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