Balearic Swedish duo Korallreven—which includes Marcus Joons and The Radio Dept. keyboardist Daniel Tjäder–craft dreamy pop tunes worthy of their debut album’s gossamer-thin cover artwork. The band was ushered into the good graces of the music blog network with promising singles, “Honey Mine” and “The Truest Faith.” Both showcased the usual tropes of Swedish Balearic music. Warm, inviting, and utterly amiable melodies eddy around bittersweet lyrical centers.
After so many excellent preview tracks, debut full-lengths from blog bands such as Korallreven seem like an after-thought. Other tropical-influenced bands, such as the Tough Alliance, Air France, jj, The Radio Dept., and Pacific!, have blazed this trail many times before. But Korallreven have a few aces up their sleeves through the LP’s influence. The project was crafted after Joons returned from a sojourn to Samoa where he found inspiration in the musical confluence of the local Catholic choirs and the verdant South Pacific environs.
Acéphale is no stranger to heady electronic-pop. The burgeoning imprint also recently issued releases by Porcelain Raft, Air France, Memory Tapes, and Elite Gymnastics. Korallreven’s debut is bubbling over with the dulcet vocalizations and the circular chorals bring on a mid-afternoon doze instead of an enraptured state of bliss. The ebullient production is always professional, especially on album opener (and absolute highlight) “As Young As Yesterday” and the lush dub instrumental, “Loved-Up.” On that the latter track, the pair build from an acoustic seaside stroll into a full-on polyphonic rythmn within seconds. It’s a joy to hear these ribald arrangements unfurl between your ears. Find yourself a nice pair of headphones and soak in the sunshine.
The Samoan choir fetish is crystalized on the Julianna Barwick-featured cut, “Sa Sa Samoa.” She loops her beautiful voice to a grand crescendo that starts with a quiet choir. Bergsman returns on the Balearic second single, “Honey Mine.” It’s pure piano-pop bliss. There are heat shimmers hovering over the steel drums and bongos on the song. The production is that warm. Only the Swedes know how to properly pull off this illusion. Once the guitars enter the mix, it’s hard not to sway back and forth like a palm frond caught in a gently island breeze.
Like many of the instrumentals on this record, a New Age gauze covers most of these productions. It may not be every listener’s particular cup of tea, but An Album is a dazzling song suite for an autumnal release. Korallreven’s music box is full of faded memories of lazy summer days. They’re just out of physical reach, but we can remember the impression of a vacation with friends and relatives.
The back-half of these types of releases usually lose casual Balearic listeners, but Korallreven keep the warmth coming. “Pago Pago” is another outstanding Bergsman collaboration centered on a ringing piano, synthetic flute, and Bengali-esque percussion. It can be a little meandering with all the harp runs and white noise outro fakeout, but Korallreven bring it all back with that insistent melody. It just bleeds right into “Honey Mine.”
All in all, An Album is a solid first step for the Swedish duo. They know how to create an unmistakable, trademark sound and put their genre building blocks to good use. Keeping the arrangments fluid and subtle throughout only aides their cause. A Second Album by Korallreven is highly anticipated in this critic’s book.