Fever Ray: Fever Ray
Rabid Records (2009)
What a strange little record this is. During the few weeks since I picked up Fever Ray, it hasn’t become a highly played part of my music collection. And yet, I constantly find myself thinking about it, humming its tunes and singing random lines from its awkward lyrics (“When I grow up I want to be a forester, and run through the moss in high heels.”)
Such is the subtlety of this debut solo album from The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson. Unlike the music she makes with her brother, Fever Ray is a quiet, subdued and some say dark affair. There are no crescendos, the songs simply come and go as they please, as if they don’t care whether you’re listening or not because they know, oh do they know that you WILL come back for more. These sparse compositions are too focused on planting tiny homing beacons in your brain to bother with showing off. I did say this a strange little album.
Perhaps the only similarity Fever Ray has with The Knife is its complete dedication to electronics. Although, Karin has forgone dance-oriented music for blunted Autechre-meets-trip-hop-rhythms and 80’s post punk melodies. She doesn’t look towards Gang of Four or Talking Heads for inspiration; Fever Ray is more like ABC or The Human League doped up on Valium.
I’m also reminded of Bjork when listening to this, particularly her underrated Homogenic album. Both these artists share a Northern European sensibility and sing in English rather then their native tongues, so their phrasing and pronunciation has an alluring skew to it. Both share an interest in themes of nature and the female self.
Beyond that, Fever Ray also carries Homogenic’s sense of restraint – the songs seem ethereal, directionless and delicate. However, Bjork gave each song on Homogenic a character arc, they build to a point and then drift away. Fever Ray isn’t as obvious, it expects your attention and I think that’s why it’s difficult to find something to sink your teeth into.
But when you do, it’s a sumptuous affair. The Asiatic scales and xylophones on Triangle Walks call to mind The Cure circa Japanese Whispers or Head on the Door. Likewise, the languid keyboard stroll of Coconut could easily be something off The Cure’s Disintegration. Meanwhile, Concrete Walls slips between Massive Attack and the cold sci-fi of Blade Runner.
There are multiple reference points for the sound of Fever Ray, testament to Karin’s chameleon-like ability to draw upon influences without actually sounding like anyone. The more I think about it, I realise what a rich tapestry Fever Ray is. Listening to it now, I’m struck by the lonely bird calls in the background of the album’s closing track, something I hadn’t heard on previous listens. Maybe I need to give this record a little more attention, give it a chance to reveal itself and climb its way up my playlist. Somehow I think that’s exactly what Karin wants from her listeners.