ch1Holy smokes! It seems that Stockholm-based duo Maria Lindén and Fredrick Balck have taken a leaf out of their untouchable recent tour mates’ book. Like Icelandic messiahs Sigur Rós, who have carefully honed their ethereal soundscapes across seven rather glorious studio albums without too many dramatic departures, they similarly haven’t shape-shifted on sophomore ‘Chiaroscuro’, but rather added a new layer of beguiling depth to their brand of delicate electronica.

The title itself – meaning “light-dark” – sets the tone for this one nicely; ‘You Burn’’s poignant and lingering piano chords sound brooding like NO CEREMONY/// at half speed, while Lindén evokes some sort of elusive Natasha Khan/Del Rey hybrid as she playfully whispers “Baby you burn” in a lazily seductive fashion. Of course, elsewhere their far less gentle and accessible, ‘Faith’ – along with its mesmerising  video – is bold, cold and hypnotic; starting all ominous like mid-90s Underworld, before later revealing an insistent, detuned Crystal Castles-like hook.

It’s strong, but they still seem at their most resonant when they heighten the contrast even more. Consequently, ‘Weigh True Words’ is the gem here, gliding effortlessly – all roaming percussion and glossy synths, before one of the most earworming choruses we’ve indulged in some time. Basically, this isn’t light years away from debut ‘Hearts’, but as Lindén says about the creative process, “My only aim when starting to write this album was to ignore any possible second album expectations”. Mission accomplished. 7/10



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