After four energizing releases beside her brother Olof, Karin Dreijer Andersson of sibling duo The Knife decided to try one solo. Under the name Fever Ray and in a darker, more ambient environment , Andersson’s solo debut is something new and intriguing.
Her decision to take on wispy darkwave as opposed to the more familiar cosmic synth-pop makes sense for attentive listeners of Silent Shout, The Knife’s 2006 album. Moments like the slow, atmospheric buildup of “The Captain” and the aching delivery of “Still Light” are essential for the dynamic shifts of that album, yet are arguably overshadowed by the songs’ booming highs. It seems that Andersson aimed to elaborate on these softer, more intimate moments with Fever Ray. After all, intimacy’s not easy when you’re standing in a sea of synthesizers.
Although the two are clearly operating at different creative frequencies, most fans of The Knife will find Fever Ray just as compelling (though perhaps not as fast).The album drips with hope and sorrow, touching on human comfort (“never leave me / walk close beside me / your hand my hand / fits so easy”), laziness (“you’ve got cucumbers on your eyes / too much time spent on nothing / waiting for a moment to arise”), reflection (“let us stop here / we did some great things / or didn’t we”), and a dozen other similiar themes, all of which are sung with Andersson’s hauntingly beautiful voice.
Her use of the vocoder adds a whole new effect to the standard slow song (all of these are slow songs). She sings in three different “voices:” one normal, one exceedingly high, and one where she’d sound like the devil if the pitch were any lower. The effects have been used in previous Knife songs but they really stand out and shine here. Her vocals drive the songs and album, and the instrumentals are perfect companions.
The production is phenomenal, to no surprise. After a three year wait, it’s what one would expect from a band like this. Every note sounds more justified with each listen, and the pace really sticks once you get used to it. The percussion work is especially impressive because it mends everything together, and the line between Fever Ray and The Knife blurs.
The album as a whole holds its own quite easily. Always finding a head-scratching mix between mystery and clarity, Karin Dreijer Andersson as Fever Ray is leaving a legacy of well-crafted, interpretation-friendly pop songs, regardless of how far off the beaten path they may wander.