It's not for the squeamish.
Chris Jones 2009-03-20
Fever Ray is the pseudonym of Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson, one half of sibling electronica duo The Knife. Fever Ray is her first solo album while the Swedish pair take a break. It's filled with the same brooding, uncomfortable songs, delivered in swathes of sequencers and impenetrable lyrical concerns. And for fans of such Scandinavian weirdness, it's bloody marvellous.
Playing with identity has long been a modus operandi for The Knife, refusing to appear without masks etc. Fever Ray continues this game while adding a layer of childish fantasy. On first single When I Grow Up she sings ''I want to be a forester, run through the moss on high heels''. It sounds cute, until you see the accompanying video of Dreijer Andersson as a dishevelled and soiled waif intruding into a suburban swimming pool.
While Fever Ray's material owes an obvious debt to that other Northern child of nature, Bjork, particularly in the strangely innocent way she delivers her oblique lyrics of introspection and menace, she's very much her own woman. She brings to the album the same use of reverb-drenched keyboards and creepily pitch-shifted vocals (cf: Dry And Dusty), often approaching the dislocated androgyny that she used on The Knife's brilliant Silent Shout album.
There is a vague sense of holding pattern here rather than massive innovation. Without brother Olof as a guiding hand on the droning sequencers the tunes fall a bit by the wayside. Keep The Streets Empty For Me, for instance, consists of little more than two note backing leavened only by a questionable pan pipe sample. But this very tiny drawback doesn't stop Fever Ray from being the kind of brilliant album that it may not make sense to play if you're prone to nightmares.
It's a wayward but rewarding venture into territory that challenges and provokes. But it's not for the squeamish.