Album Review: Fever Ray
Facts about this album:
* Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson, who found fame as one half of Swedish electronic duo The Knife alongside her brother Olof Dreijer.
* ‘Fever Ray’ is Dreijer Andersson’s first solo album.
* ‘Fever Ray’ was produced by Christoffer Berg, who mixed The Knife’s work, and Swedish production duo Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid.
Karin Dreijer Andersson sounds demented on this album. Not in a keeping-a-woman-down-a-well kind
of way. And not demented in a constructing-furniture-out-of-human-thigh-bones-as-a-sickening-monument-to-insanity fashion. And not even in a following-deranged-orders-from-a-long-since-deceased-mother-in-the-attic manner either. Dreijer doesn’t sound sick, she just sounds slightly ill. And it’s this feverishness that’s key to this magnetic and rewarding album. Intoxication is one of the prime motivations in human psychology after sex, food and shelter, and most of us first encounter it as poorly children.
As well as discomfort and pain, youthful fever can cause high temperature, wooziness and an almost hallucinatory quality to everyday life. It is this kind of illness that sees toys come to life and re-enact terrifyingly entertaining versions of half-remembered bedtime stories. That first Wizard Of Oz/Fantasia-style hit can become the high that a youngster chases well into adulthood, whether this is conscious or not.
Andersson, the Swedish singer and electro-pop artist who previously sang with Honey Is Cool and who makes up one half of publicity-shy duo The Knife with her brother, Olof, has made an addictively sublime and slow-burning album as Fever Ray. It must be said that this project has none of the immediacy of albums such as The Knife’s ‘Silent Shout’, with its playful eclecticism and heavier, dancefloor-leaning beats. Most importantly, it doesn’t have a killer hit single in the style of ‘Heartbeats’, the song that launched the duo into uneasy prominence after being taken into the Top 10 by José González in 2006 on the back of a TV ad (their far-superior version was released in 2004 and was one of the singles of the year). To fully appreciate this beautiful and understated gem, however, it’s important to relinquish all desires for another ‘Heartbeats’ and enter fully into the world of Fever Ray.
Dreijer, a mother of two, has shrunk her universe so that it only contains her and her children. She uses her insomnia to recreate the trippy world of the young. Lead single and opener ‘If I Had
A Heart’ pitches her voice right down into a hot-browed and torrid twilight world. There are few obvious musical comparisons here but her ability to see the mundane domestic world with the wonder of young eyes over evocative electronica (‘Seven’) calls to mind Kate Bush’s 2005 album ‘Aerial’ and her exploration of the tender area between synth-pop and early house music with simplistic, chiming guitars (especially on ‘Dry And Dusty’) calls to mind Underworld’s pre-fame album ‘Dubnobasswithmyheadman’. Elsewhere, ‘Triangle Walks’ shows an appreciation for cult Japanese electronic outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra. ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’, a duet with Swedish pop singer Cecilia Nordlund of Cilihili, explores an even deeper escape route from the adult world by entering the refuge of zoomorphism (this surreal state of wanting to return to an idealised natural world by becoming an animal has been a rich place to visit recently for current DIY indie favourites Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective). “I learned not to eat the snow/My fur is hot, my tongue is cold/On a bed of spider web/I think about to change myself”, the pair sing. It’s some kind of sweet-and-innocent version of lycanthropy; the narrator turning into a cuddly soft toy rather than a blood-crazed werewolf. This track contains one of the album’s few jarring moments in the use of insipid and new-agey pan pipes but otherwise, ‘Fever Ray’’s excellence seems like child’s play.