Fever Ray: Fever Ray (2009)

Fever Ray: Fever Ray (2009)

by Phil H

Fever Ray: Fever Ray (2009)

Having made the mistake of watching Let Me In, the pointless US remake of the 2008 film Let The Right One In (after only recently wasting 10 hours of my life on the pointless remake of The Killing, why do I never learn?), I decided to salvage something from the whole sorry experience by digging out Fever Ray, Karin Dreijer Andersson's 2009 solo album.

I saw Let The Right One In not long after getting the album and they've become intertwined in my mind - they're both Swedish, spooky and located inside wintry domestic settings.

There's also a mutual interest in swimming pools, featuring in the videos for Andersson's When I Grow Up and If I Had A Heart and providing the setting for Eli's limb-tossing rescue of Oskar from his tormentors in the film.

Andersson even vaguely looks like an amalgamation of the two, with Oskar's straggly blond hair and Eli's mysterious, dark, rather gothic air. Seeing Fever Ray play live last year, she sang the first two songs with what seemed to be a giant insect mask on her head and subsequently spent the rest of the gig standing in the gloom near the back of the stage while lampshades flickered around her.

Andersson also likes to use pitch-shifting effects on her voice, a trick she carries over from The Knife, the band she fronts with her brother, Olof Dreijer.

She uses it to particularly good effect on album opener If I Had A Heart, with her voice sounding husky and alien as she sings the opening lines 'This will never end because I want more/Give me more, give me more, give me more' over a slowly throbbing electro backing in a manner that brings to mind Eli's ageless thirst.

The film is set on a run-down concrete Swedish housing estate covered in frozen snow and it's a scene easily conjured up by Concrete Walls, with its slow, slurred chorus of 'I live between concrete walls/ In my arms she was so warm'.

The final two songs, Keep The Streets Empty For Me and Coconut, both sound big, echoey and deserted, ideal for soundtracking a walk through slow, windless snowfall under street lights. The effect is a little reminiscent of Gier Jenssen's 1994 Biosphere LP, Patashnik, which he recorded in northern Norway on the edge of the Arctic Circle.

Not that Fever Ray is all so spooky or distant, with Andersson's ability to alchemise her surroundings into something magical sounding also stretching to the most mundane of everyday occurances.

On When I Grow Up she somehow goes from singing about the escapism of 'I want to be a forester/ Run through the moss on high heels' to the remarkable verse of 'I'm very good with plants/ When my friends are away/ They let me keep the soil moist', and somehow takes you with her - you smile rather than smirk.

Seven finds her singing about riding around on her bike and talking to an old friend about love and dishwasher tablets. But my particular favourite is 'A new colour on the globe/ It goes from white to red/ A little voice in my head goes oh oh oh', which will ring a bell with any new parent whose brief moments of respite on the sofa have been shattered by a wail from the baby monitor.

Fever Ray was largely recorded at home very early in the morning while Andersson was bringing up her two children, and lack of sleep is a theme that crops up several times.

On Triangle Walks, she mischievously sings 'Eats us out of house and home/ Keeping us awake, keeping us awake', but it's not the kids she's complaining about, it's the birds who feed on the berries outside her window.

Despite the demands of being a mother and the drain of not sleeping, Andersson seems determined to keep her creativity alive, which is why Fever Ray ultimately feels like an uplifting listen. I'm Not Done is a will to power, a refusal to give up what she loves.

Perhaps she felt a little like Eli at the end of Right One..., hidden away inside a trunk but tapping out 'kiss' in morse code confident that Oskar is still listening. We're fortunate that she stuck with it because Fever Ray is a fine album that feels all the more appropriate now winter's drawing closer.
Phil H

Chilly Scando synth-pop with an oddly warm heart