The return of Fever Ray
Hanna Kennedy | Friday, November 17, 2017
Fever Ray — the solo project from the Knife’s Karin Dreijer — surprise released “Plunge” in late October on select streaming services. “Plunge” is Fever Ray’s second studio album. Nearly nine years since the release of her self-titled first project, “Fever Ray,” “Plunge” strikes the listener as a bold exploration of Dreijer’s artistic evolution as she pursues her solo career.
The album begins with the fast-paced, three-minute jolt that is “Wanna Sip.” Dreijer’s artificially high voice lends the song a supernatural charge. Acutely aware of words and their power, Dreijer prolongs her vowel sounds to stretch and twist her lyrics in unpredictable ways. The restlessness and intensity at the heart of the opening track set the tone for the rest of the album. The first two lines of the chorus, “A funny trick, a head shake / I wanna peek, I wanna sip” put into words the feeling that this opening track creates for the listener. One is left curious, wanting more, wanting to “peek” or “sip” from what is to come and what is to be said on “Plunge.”
The album’s eponymous track, “Plunge” reinforces Fever Ray’s membership in the genre termed “transcendental mood music.” The song’s sound is drifting, interspersed with sharply pitched, rhythmic interjections that make the hairs on its listener’s arms stand up. Eerily smooth electronic soundscapes prove lyrics are not necessary to make a statement. There is an energy at the heart of “Plunge” that is perfectly embodied by this titular track.
Fever Ray owes a great deal to the tradition of electronic music while simultaneously breaking from the past and forging her own artistic identity. Recorded primarily in her Stockholm studio, Fever Ray embodies that peculiarly anarcho-Scandinavian sound that she and her brother developed as The Knife. Dreijer wrote in a press release that while producing “Plunge” she “had a plan for how some kind of heartfelt physical intensity could save us”. She never specifies from what people need to be saved, but the intensity she speaks of forms the backbone of every track on “Plunge.” From the fast-paced, 150-BPM “IDK About You” to the softer “Red Trails,” featuring violinist Sara Parkman, there is an energy and a restlessness about “Plunge.” This album is Dreijer transforming herself, transforming Fever Ray and asserting a creative freedom that for her has a saving power.
Dreijer is political in a way she has never been before on “Plunge.” On the track, “This Country” Fever Ray sings of “Free abortions / And clean water.” She cries “Destroy nuclear / Destroy boring” in her signature synthesized, pitch shifted voice. Her unique sound is sharp and cutting. It is hard not to feel bold, almost invincible while listening to Fever Ray demand the world she envisions. Delirious, conflicted and manic, “This Country” stands out as an example of one of the many ways Dreijer has transformed herself and her identity as Fever Ray since the release of her first album.
“Plunge” is riskier than anything Dreijer has produced previously, on her own or as part of The Knife. The album’s title denotes a fall, but a fall to where or into what, no one knows. This is only Dreijer’s sophomore album, so hopefully her fall only takes her deeper into her identity as Fever Ray.
Artist: Fever Ray
Label: Mute Records
Tracks: “To the Moon and Back,” “Plunge,” “This Country”
If you like: The Knife, Austra, Laurel Halo
3.5 out of 5 Shamrocks