Swedish dreampop duo take us on a Voyage…
While the Nordic regions have produced some sterling electropop acts in recent years, Swedish outfit The Sound Of Arrows (aka Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand) appear to have stepped to the side to craft a particular sound that’s undeniably unique. Having first popped up on the radar on the back of EPs Danger! (2008) and M.A.G.I.C. (2009), The Sound Of Arrows laid out lush soundscapes, euphoric hooks and a series of songs whose lyrics employed uplifting messages of hope and discovery.
This ‘magicpop’ element is the corner foundation for their debut album release Voyage, a record that’s been produced using some classic ‘old school’ synths (including a Korg MS20, Roland Juno 60 and MiniMoog) yet appears to have crafted a sound that’s both evocative, yet thoroughly modern.
Also along for the ride is Richard X, who lends a hand on production/co-writing duties for some tracks. Richard X is an interesting collaborator as someone with has a keen interest in the classic synthpop era (he worked on The Golden Hour of the Future – the compilation album that featured early Human League tunes). He was also responsible for Sugababes’ ‘Freak Like Me’, which was a mashup that included the unlikely choice of ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’.
As an album, Voyage has had a difficult birth, having gone through two previous incarnations before the duo were happy with the final version. Then there were debates with their then-label Geffen, which included arguments about some of the choices for the album. The collapse of the label dropped the album firmly back into the creative control of the band themselves, which (after some more adjustments) has resulted in the definitive version of Voyage.
The album has a strong opener in the shape of ‘Into The Clouds’, a busy layered slice of percussive electropop that starts things off with a bang (and was also one of the most downloaded songs on its original release back in 2009). It’s a tune that breathes optimism and joy (“I’m going to work my way out of this jam/I’m gonna be someone and know who I am”) and can’t fail to resonate with the heart.
‘Wonders’ continues in a similar vein with a glorious widescreen pop banger. Meanwhile, the euphoric synthpop of ‘My Shadow’ crafts one of Voyage’s finest moments. It’s got synth hooks and an impressive production that gives the whole affair impact.
‘Magic’, with its children’s choral touches, is pure escapism with its themes of discovery explored through its simple lyrics (“seize a chance, follow a dream”).
The tempo steps down a notch on tracks such as ‘Ruins Of Rome’ and ‘Hurting All The Way’, which offer up more reflective moments. But these are simply little oases among some top notch tunes. This includes the euphoria of ‘Longest Ever Dream’. A collaborative effort featuring co-writing credits from Richard X – and a captivating vocal care of Sarah Nyberg Pergament (aka Action Biker) – it’s a wistful piece of pop confectionery.
Equally ‘Conquest’ and ‘Nova’ offer panoramic pop moments before the album begins to wind down with the cinematic ‘There Is Still Hope’ and the instrumental ‘Lost City’.
In many ways, Voyage indeed feels like a journey or a film in which the arrangement of songs is crafted like some lost soundtrack. It’s a concept that’s carried over for the promo videos for the singles, which in some cases play out like mini films.
Voyage might not be agreeable to those that appreciate an element of cynicism or a harder edge in their music. There’s certainly more downbeat melancholic elements in the output of many other Nordic acts that The Sound Of Arrows steers around. But the end result is a magical, joyful vision which opens up a world of endless possibilities.
Voyage is out now on Skies Above label.
Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and OMD Messages.