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Fever Ray
Fever Ray Julian Marszalek , April 3rd, 2009 07:29

Thanks in part to the likes We're From Barcelona, The Concretes, Peter, Bjorn & John, Salty Pirates et al, Sweden has, over the last decade or so, become synonymous with the breezy and cardigan-and-sandals wearing branch of indie pop. It would be no understatement to say that the country has become the genre's spiritual home; so much so that those fine practitioners of the art Camera Obscura upped sticks from Scotland to and sailed across the North Sea to work on their last album Let's Get Out Of This Country.

Yet this only tells part of the story, not to mention a stereotypical disservice for, as displayed by the dark, electronic gurgling of The Knife, Sweden is more than capable of producing bands whose dark and unsettling outpourings trample the notion of twee well into the ground. On first inspection, Fever Ray – the first solo outing of Karin Dreijer Andersson, one half of the aforementioned The Knife – hardly represents a move away from her day job. Yet repeated plays yield layers of dense beauty that outflanks her previous work.

The key here is atmosphere. Fever Ray travels from shadows to light and all shades in between with an almost casual grace. For instance, the murk of opening track 'If I Had A Heart' develops to reveal a peculiarly idiosyncratic vision that is at once beguiling and curiously oppressive. Using her voice as an instrument as much as a vessel for conveying inner thought, Andersson peels away layers of her psyche to stark effect. 'When I Grow Up' finds the singer employing Oriental dynamics that blend seamlessly with the electronic pulses that surround them as elsewhere, 'Seven' becomes a creature of warm, haunting beauty.

Fever Ray is an album that burrows itself into the brain before nestling down for the long haul. By taking electronics forward but without sacrificing accessibility, Andersson has fashioned an album that demands and receives full immersion. Its brooding personality is, on occasion, challenging and awkward, but this is something that's worth getting to grips with.