After a couple of albums that shifted their warm indie pop sound toward something chillier and '80s synth pop-inspired, the Swedish duo Club 8 take an understated left turn on 2018's Golden Island. Utilizing ghostly vocal samples, field recordings, and swaths of vintage synths, the band leave any dancefloor aspirations behind in favor of beatless, spectral music ideal for deep introspection. Unlike other Club 8 albums, where it's easy to spot the influences Johan Angergård is borrowing from, this time around the arrangements and production don't appear to be tethered to anything other than his desire to tear down the Club 8 sound and make something very different. The songs meander like streams, sounds float in and out of focus, the samples (which range from jungle birds to Tuvan throat singers) pop up in unexpected places, and the range of instruments they use is pretty far outside their usual toolbox. It almost feels like the work of another band, especially since long periods seem to go by without the appearance of Karolina Komstedt's vocals. When she does appear, she comes across as much more subdued than on previous records, fitting into the arrangements like another piece of the puzzle instead of the main focus. On tracks like the lovely "Swimming with the Tide" or "Got to Live," which balances her clear tones against the keening sound of the throat singers, Angergård crafts something rich, calm, and beautiful like he was a collage artist cutting and pasting disparate elements into something whole and unique. Most of the album manages to come off in similar fashion, pitting ghostly atmosphere against restrained emotion to make some truly thoughtful music. It only comes apart when the duo amp up the beats on the thumping dance track "Fire," which breaks the mood of the album without delivering anything too exciting in return. Better to sink deeply into the rest of Golden Island's rich arrangements, quietly startling musical juxtapositions, and trademark Club 8-style tender emotions. The sounds may change and the style may expand and/or contract, but as the album proves again, Angergård's vision and Komstedt's ability to transmit emotion without breaking a sweat will likely never change.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra