Ray - Fever Ray (Co-operative)
communal brain of the British music press has heralded 2009
as the year of synthpop. Hang on a minute. Isn't
that the genre that's been making a comeback every year
since at least the turn of this century, if not ever since
the Human League put their mascara on and plugged in their
better tell Karin Dreijer Andersson that she's part of this
new resurgent wave of all things electronic as she may no
doubt be confused as to what exactly she's been doing for
the past decade as half of The Knife. Unafraid
of expectations and boldly displaying their creative intent
and individuality through the sharpest attention to detail,
The Knife have gained the reputation of being an eccentrically
accessible entity, not to mention a mesmerising live act.
But separate Karin from brother Olof, and what have you
electronic pop is the answer in short. While this won't
come as any surprise to current The Knife devotees, Fever
Ray is a more personal, edgier and at times stark listen.
Lyrically there is enough detail to snag interest but definitive
meanings are always left blurry, vague and ambiguous enough
to keep you guessing.
the undulating, trance-like incantation of If I Had A Heart,
to the icy chords of When I Grow Up, to the classic synthpop
melancholy of Seven, there is enough variation to evade
pigeonholing but enough continuity for the album to retain
its overall cohesion. Overall it poses an emotionally engaging,
at times uplifting, at times claustrophobic listen.
a unique voice and style of singing always has the power
to divide and Fever Ray's potential audience outside of
hardcore The Knife fans will undoubtedly be split. Spread
over 10 tracks, the way Karin draws out each word in a catlike
manner could have begun to grate. But that potential pitfall
is nicely sidestepped though liberal use of a vocoder on
tracks like the dark and moody Concrete Walls and fragile,
spine-tingling standout Dry And Dusty.
shoulder to shoulder with other distinctive female artists
like Kate Bush, Tori Amos
and Björk, Karin Dreijer Andersson
is certainly a unique talent. Rather than angling for mass
appeal, her Fever Ray guise shows that whether recording
as half of The Knife or going solo, she remains staunchly
opposed to compromising herself or her artistic ideals.
While that may pose a Marmite effect for listeners, that's
surely better to savour than chewing on the latest piece
of bland, unbuttered toast that's been served up to tick
all of the right commercial boxes.
forget what the bleating pack say about 2009 being the year
of synthpop: 2009 may just be the year of Fever Ray. This
is an odd gem of a record that should be cherished in a
class of its own.