THE SOUND OF ARROWS – Stay Free

There is no beginning…

When The Sound Of Arrows appeared to disappear following the release of their 2011 debut album Voyage, it seemed like one of the brighter hopes for electronic music may have gone forever. Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand had brought an optimistic element to their widescreen pop that immediately stood them apart from their contemporaries.

Voyage’s strength was founded on the Arrows’ sense of wonder wrapped up in a fluid, dreamlike sound. This ‘magicpop’ element gave The Sound Of Arrows their unique appeal with a direction that aimed more for hope than cynicism.

Plans for a swift follow-up album were abandoned with Storm instead focussing his energies on Kids Of The Apocalypse, a side project that drew from many influences, including M83 and Gorillaz. Cultivated as a loosely narrative-driven idea in collaboration with animator Ernest Desumbila, the concept tacked to a much more immediate sound (utilising a hip-hop approach) than the Arrows’ typical dreampop approach.

But The Sound Of Arrows hadn’t quite been boxed away forever. The duo toiled away on music in the intervening years, taking their time to perfect their sound. This wasn’t new as apparently two proto-albums had been conceived and then abandoned before the pair had finalised Voyage (that then-label Geffen sat on the material for a year is another story altogether).

Promoting new album Stay Free, the band stated: “Most of the bands we really rate, they don’t make music on a conveyor belt – it’s more about when they’re ready and when they have something to present. It just took time to get right.” Certainly the duo’s new album Stay Free arrives in a world that’s changed quite significantly since Voyage was released. So just how does The Sound Of Arrows fit into contemporary music in 2017?

‘Beautiful Life’, which was the first glimpse of the new album, suggested that the electronic outfit’s talent for big pop tunes was still present and correct, but there’s also a more organic element with big string arrangements prominent in the mix. “Turn up the music and bring down the rain” suggests the wistful lyrics atop subtle synth rhythms. Meanwhile, the track is given plenty of epic sweeps courtesy of the strings section.

“Bandage every scar, silence all the noise and see the sky is full of stars” offers Storm on Stay Free’s title track. It’s a balmy tune that suggests summer skies and expansive vistas.

The cinematic elements that were such a vital element of Arrows work previously are evident on the likes of ‘Beautiful Life’ and also ‘Don’t Worry’. The latter employing a captivating strings-driven melody as Storm’s evocative vocal weaves in and out of the beats.

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As with their 2011 album Voyage, the duo are also happy to bring in collaborators for vocal duties. ‘Wicked Ways’ brings onboard Annie to take the Arrows down trip-hop territory with its combo of beats and strings. Meanwhile, ‘In The Shade Of Your Love’ brings the impressive vocal chops of Niki & The Dove to bear. Here, the track has an hymnal quality through its choral elements and it breathes a tropical, languid atmosphere that invites the listener to swim in it.

There’s panoramic pop on tracks such as ’The Greatest’, while ‘Hold On’ employs sweeping orchestral beats that give it a Massive Attack-style sheen. The album takes a distinctly different direction with ‘Another World’. Here, a more sedate atmosphere is wrapped around a flute melody and tribal drum rhythms.

Elsewhere, the album also opts for slower, more reflective moments, such as ‘Lost In L.A.’ with its sober yearning vocal (“love will come to us/but we must wait”).

Richard X, who did duties on Voyage, is also back lending co-production duties to some tracks. Meanwhile, Elias Kapari and John ‘P*Nut’ Harrison also contribute their talents to Stay Free’s extensive range of material.

Stay Free is a very different affair to Voyage with a much more grounded sound than the magicpop of old – an evolution in The Sound Of Arrows sound that was hinted at in the earlier Kids Of The Apocalypse output. As Storm suggests: “It’s less conceptual than Voyage and a little more about having two feet on the ground, maybe gazing up at the sky rather than floating up into space this time.”

There’s always been a desire for the outfit to develop and grow rather than repeat themselves and Stay Free offers a solid collection of songs that stands proud against a busy modern music scene.


Stay Free is out now on Skies Above label.

The Stay Free album launch party takes place at The Old Bank Vault, 283 Hackney Rd, London E2 8NA on Friday 27th October, 6-10pm

The Stay Free Pop-Up Shop will also run at The Old Bank Vault from 27th to 30th October.

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THE SOUND OF ARROWS – Voyage

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.

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‘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.

http://www.thesoundofarrows.com/