By Melanie McGovern
The Dø is comprised of Dan Levy and Olivia Merilahti, of Paris and Helsinki respectively. With a unique blending of the orchestral with the electronic, the classical with the contemporary and a nod to much of that typical “electro-pop with a haunted touch” Scandinavian sound, the France based duo’s eye and ear for “[a] richness of sound [and] orchestral colour” is met with instruments ranging from piano and harpsichord to sax and trumpet, all performed by multi-instrumentalist Levy.
Their sophomore album Both Ways Open Jaws is set for UK release on 14th November via Village Green and is composed of a sound and styling which retains a certain buoyancy and poppish quirk across its 13 tracks – this, for the most part, is thanks to the perfect and yet effortlessly versatile vocals of Merilahti.
Opener ‘Dust It Off’ creeps from the quietude of its minimal electronic beginning to a crescendo of a more intense nature, moving the computerised and synth beats to the foreground, while keeping subtle horns to cushion the blows deeper in the mix. Numbers like ‘Gonna Be Sick’ jangle with an intriguing percussion; woodblocks and cymbals the main accompaniment to Marilahti’s more focused vocal narrative; “I was such a wreck back then”, while ‘Bohemian Dances’ is mostly vocals looped against dusty stomping feet that bring to mind the soft brushing of hooves as they gallop along.
Much of this record feels very by the book in terms of pop song formation and structure, but the way this is approached is with a daring melee of instruments and often a clashing of styles: ‘The Wicket & The Blind’ for example is full of thumping, descending drums patterns juxtaposed with glossy strings which retain its sophisticated yet accessible arrangement.
With a voice that has drawn comparisons from Joanna Newsom and Björk to Regina Spektor and Lykke Li it’s easy to see ‘Too Insistent’ flying round the blogosphere in the not too distant future. A beautifully catchy pop number, it is prevented from slumping into ’1234′ territory thanks to the coupling of its saccharine orchestral strings, jubilant horns and chants with a rather more melancholic lyric “why won’t you let me go”.
Amongst other instruments piano is scattered throughout the album, and deep tribal drums are coupled with an infectious vocal on ‘Slippery Slope’, while ‘The Calendar’ is a gorgeous nu-folk narrative against a rich backdrop of joyously punctuated piano, drums, vocal harmonies and vibrant string arrangements.
From the lullabyish ‘Was it a Dream’ to the Tegan and Sara reminiscent ‘Quake, Mountain, Quake’, and with layered vocals and distorted electronics, The Dø work upon the current craze of poppish electronica producing a record that plays out much like a less melancholic and isolated cousin of The Deer Tracks icy cold and haunting The Archer Trilogy Pt. 2. Both Ways Open Jaws leads the way in the Scandinavian music scene and in fact much of the wider-reaching scene itself. Well worth a listen.