Half of The Knife on her debut solo LP...

Karin Dreijer Andersson is a mother of two. This is where her connection with any semblance of normality ends.

Okay, so I exaggerate, but there’s no doubt that Andersson, as both one half of acclaimed electro duo The Knife and now as a solo artist under the Fever Ray moniker, has operated in out-there territories ever since the release of the self-titled Knife debut in 2001. Her creations circle the pop world, but orbit at a distance that always keeps them on the periphery of one’s vision. You need a suitable spyglass, an ear for the ambitious, to accurately analyse what’s presented.

‘Fever Ray’ is not direct continuation of ‘Silent Shout’, the multi-award winning Knife album of 2006 and the duo’s last prior to their current hiatus. Regarded as a modern classic, ‘Silent Shout’ fuses dance beats with ethereal electronica, the end product something warmly organic yet unmistakeably alien. It sounds like no other record released this side of the millennium (and quite probably before it). The slurred, sluggish vocals, the tribal percussiveness of tracks daring to shock and awe while also offering comfort in sound rich in texture, replete with undulating layers aplenty: ‘Silent Shout’ was, is, a one-off. ‘Fever Ray’ should not be measured against it.

Not to any significant degree, anyway, as it’s impossible to not hear echoes of the release here – the vocals, of course, are similar, but instrumentally ‘Fever Ray’ has its moments of otherworldly sultriness that conjure thoughts of Andersson’s high water mark to date. There’s a brooding intensity, albeit one executed with slow-motion high-definition precision, to songs like ‘Concrete Walls’, ‘Dry And Dusty’ and the album’s lead single ‘If I Had A Heart’ – the latter is so gentle of unfolding that it seems to move nowhere, yet tells a story complex enough to fill dozens of typical pop albums.

Yet not every aspect of this collection is characterised by a maturely maverick compositional streak, as ‘When I Grow Up’ combines delightfully nostalgic lyrics – memories of high heels in the moss, babysitting, feeding friends’ plants when they’re away from home – with a drifty, droney arrangement that shifts its shape only slightly over four minutes of beauteous soundscaping. The song’s an early highlight, revealing the human heart of an artist whose previous get-ups have promoted the notion of a musician keen to keep their emotions in check, or at least the physical affects of such influences.

Elsewhere, this openness is rendered in a far more abstract fashion, as Andersson masks her lyricism in complex metaphorical smokescreens; as such ‘Fever Ray’ is, at times, a tough record to connect with – appreciate its nuances one can, its dalliances with the articulation of a most wonderful moroseness, but typically tone implies the underlying mood, rather than interpretation of vocalised content. Yet there’s a distinct pulse to the record, which becomes more apparent as it progresses from the prickly ‘If I Had A Heart’ to the closing brace of ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’ and ‘Coconut’, and this guarantees comeback plays. And with further spins, greater depth is revealed.

Ultimately one could spend a solid month dissecting ‘Fever Ray’ – in this respect it’s on a par with ‘Silent Shout’, itself an album few critics could digest fully in a short space of time. But one need not necessarily sit and study it with a firm focus – slip in and out of its clutches and still you’ll experience a share of its delights while maintaining a semblance of your own normality.

Delve deeper, and that’s where we must part. If only to free me up to actually do my job for the next few weeks...

Fever Ray - 'When I Grow Up'


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