Formerly the vocalist for The Knife, a profoundly disturbing Swedish electronic band, Karin Andersson strikes out on her own with Fever Ray, a continuation of the themes she’s explored on her work with her other bands. Much like the album’s cover, the record is melancholy, meticulously detailed, and, occasionally, bitterly sarcastic. Thankfully, it reveals its mysteries readily to anyone willing to take a listen.
Fever Ray is not a pop album, and despite its vestigal connections to Andersson’s other work, it’s as different as can be from the jumpy, twitchy pop of The Knife. The music on this record sounds cold, distant, and aloof at first, clearly evocative of the machinelike, deadpan delivery of Gary Numan and Japan’s David Sylvian. However, Andersson’s expert manipulation of vocals and acoustic instruments lend the album an intimacy and romance that is off-putting. The lyrics, focused on loss and loneliness, hint at emotion rather than drowning in it, and it’s this subtlety that lends the record its nerve-tingling sense of imminent danger. The songs weave in and out of each other thematically, with similar composition and instrumentation. Andersson’s restrained energy, however, keeps the record fresh.
Fever Ray is Karin Andersson’s best work to date; its creepy and evocative landscapes are among the most creative and engaging pieces of music I’ve heard. Fever Ray revives old-fashioned futurism and combines it with vast, almost intimidating emotional complexity to create a step forward for all electronic music. It’s a fascinating experiment, and one that produces indescribably powerful results.