The darkness all around us is hardly clairvoyant. The growing nature of this eeriness is something that we all must deal with on a day to day basis. Karin Dreijer Andersson, half of The Knife, has always been able to not only convey this coldness but with her debut album as Fever Ray, the Swedish artist has perfected the art of ominous tonicity.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a sad or depressing listen, it isn’t even an especially scary theme but with low, cloudy beats and Andersson’s rough and guttural delivery, Fever Ray is certainly ethereal. On “Seven,” Andersson sings about childhood memories and accompanied by spectral vocal chants and synth-heavy beats, it makes for one enchanting listen. A lot of the same great music that make’s The Knife’s albums so special is in full force here; particularly those booming, magnetic beats that combine light snares with wraithlike basses and enough otherworldly atmospherics to paint the dark picture that’s the cover.
With Fever Ray, Andersson has been able to channel slow-moving pictorials that don’t necessarily need to go anywhere. Their brilliance lies in the singer’s voice and timely beats and never in the need for dramatics. Take “Concrete Walls” as an example, Andersson’s voice is at her lowest (in terms of pitch) and the music is a slow jam of warbling synths and notably highlighted drum patterns. It all moves slowly into what gradually becomes an entirely engrossing listen.
On a dissimilar note, “If I Had a Heart” is also pacing but here it is done with a forward-way of thinking. The album’s opening song plays like a welcome introduction, a prelude if you will, to the album’s next song, “When I Grow Up,” and with its tribal-like drums set in place, Andersson is allowed to wail away in fine fashion. These are all well thought-out, well-impacted and well-enforced ideas and modes that prove Andersson as the outstanding musician she is.
The balance is paramount on Fever Ray, with just the right amount of diversity and formulation to deliver success. “Triangle Walks” allows a steady beat of drums and succulent keyboards to creep in, while Andersson’s fluctuating voice-reaching from low baritone to soaring alto-washes over the music. In another realm of focus, “I’m Not Done” is an exceptionally crafted song. For the first two minutes, there is this dripping of notes that are supported by the most endearing atmospherics before an instrumental wave of brash and confidence takes over. By the time Andersson returns, the song has turned into this full-fledged beast of a song, it’s amazing, really.
Most importantly, Andersson flexes every musical chop on this tremendous album. Her voice sounds stronger than ever, her music is creative and unique and her combination of both is terrific. It may not be as enigmatic as Silent Shout but if nothing else, it is a fantastic album on its own accord.