A couple of weeks ago, I posted this blog which, in a slightly bewildered-old-man way, wondered why a raft of electropop types like La Roux and Little Boots were being tipped so enthusiastically for success in 2009.
As something of a palate-cleanser, I recommended the artier synthpop of Telepathe, and today let’s add Fever Ray into the mix. Fever Ray is the solo project of Karin Dreijer Andersson, who normally works as half of Sweden’s The Knife. More so than most spin-offs, the sound of “Fever Ray” is uncannily similar to that of The Knife – crisp minimal music, heavily treated but still intimate vocals – though overt techno flourishes are generally avoided on these ten crafted and compelling songs.
Essentially, Andersson makes a kind of synthpop which, while still referencing certain ‘80s (and ‘70s) things, is palpably made in the wake of all number of minimal house and techno references. If Telepathe have a sort of austere witchiness, juxtaposed with de-evolved R&B and grime textures, Fever Ray is more domestic, if still somewhat spooked, and grown out of a leftfield clubbing environment.
The closing “Coconut”, for instance, reminds me of a post-Kompakt take on Vangelis (“China”, maybe, though it’s a long time since I heard those records), while “When I Grow Up” is something like a very rough cross between Kate Bush circa “The Dreaming” and the delicate memory games of Mum.
Andersson frequently shifts the pitch of her voice – on “Dry And Dusty” it assumes a manly husk – but at the same time there’s a curious, odd celebration of the mundane; a blend of the processed and human which is far more effective than, say, the autotuned self-pity of Kanye West on “808s And Heartbreak”; the tunes are a lot more memorable, for a start (“I’m Not Done”, this graceful album’s one moment of relative urgency is playing now, and it’s amazing). Perhaps it’s novelty value, but there seems to be something much more affecting about Andersson sombrely detailing how good she is at looking after plants.
This all reaches its apotheosis on the fantastic “Seven”, which strikes me as ostensibly a modernist fusion of Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” and Abba’s “The Day Before You Came” (“The Man-Machine” and “The Visitors” both seem to be touchstones for the album, actually). Andersson is talking about a childhood friend, and the telephone conversations they continue to have. “We talk about love,” she intones, “We talk about dishwasher tablets.” Profound and moving, in its odd little way.