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2009 debut album from Fever Ray AKA Karin Dreijer Andersson, one half of The Knife. Fever Ray is the title, of both project and album, an evocation of the music's sound, intense and anxious, yet luminous. After having her second child and eight months of the most productive daydreaming later, Karin had a batch of new songs and the raw materials for the production of Fever Ray. Unsure how to get them over the finishing line, she took half to Christoffer Berg (who mixed The Knife's work), half to Stockholm production duo Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid for a final brush and tickle. The result is Fever Ray, an album that, while recognizably the work of the same artist, is dramatically different from The Knife. 10 tracks.
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It may or may not appeal to fans of The Knife. It might be too chill for them, but that might be fine for the rest of us. For those that don't know, Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson's solo project away from The Knife, the band she created with her brother. Their last album was a big hit in some circles. She famously talked about retiring after it came out.
This album is here to show she didn't, and in a pretty spectacular way. From her web site-
--Thus `I'm Not Done', one of Fever Ray's more upbeat moments, only reveals its true meaning in its title, a gesture of defiance against Karin's own thoughts of retirement. "That was the last song I wrote and in contrast to many tracks that are more about anxiety and depression, that one is very full of life," she says. "Sometimes, when you're as old as I am now, you think you're going to quit, and people around you think you're going to quit. But then you have days when you realise how good music can be, there's so much left to explore and so much left to do. That's why I sometimes feel I'll never quit."--
But `I'm Not Done', -though one of the finest- is not the last song on the album. Two that were probably written out of the anxiety and depression she describes follow it, and they bring the album to a breathtaking close.
Music videos of the albums first two songs can be easily found online. They are works of art unto themselves. As good as they are, and as good as the songs themselves are, they just scratch the surface of the depth and enjoyment that listening to the entire album brings. Along with albums like Fleet Foxes eponymous debut last year, and Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest coming in May, Fever Ray seems to be in on what might just be the beginning of a trend; The return of the essential complete album. The album that's too good to just download a song or two, but one where you want to own the whole thing. One you want to hold in your hands and read the liner notes while it's playing on your stereo.
Comparisons with The Knife are understandable but not always precise. Where Silent shout provided the perfect soundtrack to get the party started, Fever Ray is the music that lingers in the ears as people are exiting with the exhilaration still palpable in the skin. Her signature voice distortion and distinctive vocals are impossible to miss, but they are exploited to produce a wider, richer experience.
Opener If I had a heart is a slow-paced introduction to first single When I grow up, a song that if taken literally is a simple friends singalong but if translated properly talks about longing for that ideal moment to fall in love, past discomfort. This is the turning point - if by now it hasn't happened - when one realizes that she has stripped any direct connections to dance music and instead has opted for a more chilled and accessible approach. It is true that the mark of brother Olof is visible behind the management of samples but it is Karin with her lyrics and her androgynous voice that complements the music to create a brilliant departure from familiar ground.
In Seven she professes I've got a friend who I've known since I was seven / we used to talk on the phone, if we have time, if it's the right time. One never learns if she is referring to an imaginary friend or some kind of paranoia but the journey is deliciously enjoyable. The metallic persona projected almost makes the listener believe that she wants to disengage on purpose from the ideas and feelings that generated her current experience: motherhood, nature, silence. I'm not done explores the mix of genres she honestly displays taking a step aside The Knife's shadow, and Coconut ends the ride reminiscing natural surroundings with a tight structure that barely let lyrics slip by.
As if needed to destroy any doubts about her individuality as an artist she has taken off the mask that separated the person from the music she and Olof crafted as a duo. Her angelical face is only a welcome packet to a world of possibilities now tangible with every beat.
This is a record that never resolves into a pumping session but it never fails to satisfy. An album of ideas but of deep emotional effect, with subtleties that crawl slowly but steadily, that is Fever Ray. The hidden clues to uncover its beauty are scattered making it a flavor that one keeps coming back to savor in a different way each time. Never dull despite the mood, never disappointing despite the apparent form constriction, Fever Ray is one of the best records released this year and a morphing creature that continues to evolve to reveal a fascinating soundscape with each listen.
The Vikings title track is fairly representative of the style in general although there are both lighter and darker moments on the CD, I would be interested in more stuff like this.
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