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Three Songs No Flash

More Give Me More: Fever Ray at Troxy
Aimee Armstrong , March 23rd, 2018 07:21

Karin Dreijer and her band are magnificent, queer, terrifying and beautiful.

Traditionalism has always been a bone of contention for Karin Dreijer. Aversions to conservative values and heteronormativity can be spotted in every speck of her musical output as both Fever Ray and singer of The Knife. While an underlying queerness has always been present, 2017’s Plunge pushed it to centre stage - if the lyrics “first I take you, then you take me” and “I want to run my fingers up your pussy” don’t highlight this enough, the live show does. “Destroy nuclear, destroy boring”, she demands on ‘This Country’. Midway through the set, this a perfect description of her performance at Troxy - she does exactly that. Visually the show offers us entirely mutable perspectives on gender and sexuality, not bound to the heteronormative ideals that have burdened her in the past.

Fever and her band take to the stage one by one, each more wonderfully strange then the last. One all in black PVC, one in sparkly dungarees and a blue fur coat; most striking of all is a backing singer in an orange spray-tanned muscle suit. When Fever herself emerges, she seems to revel in the thrill of seeing the audience. Much like in her ‘To The Moon And Back’ video from last year, she looks as though she’s just awoken from cryogenic sleep, hairless and black-eyed. “I love that idea of shaving your head and starting a new beginning,” she told The Guardian last year. She may appear to be a blank slate but she also seems to have the most fully realised idea yet of herself as an artist.

Her T-shirt reads “I Love Swedish Girls” but the word “Swedish” is crossed out. Allusions to queerness are far from discreet; the lighting is in the colours of the Pride flag, and the most strikingly queer aspect of the show is the homoerotic energy between Fever and her all-female backing vocalists. I say all-female with hesitation, as each of the performers distorts the idea of gender; the three performers erotically rubbing each other seem to antithesise the satisfaction of the male gaze, as one is dressed as a bodybuilder and one wears a bald cap. The vocalists are in almost constant cahoots performing identical movements; they are almost a singular entity on the stage. The two backing singers are just as much pulled to the fore as Fever herself.

The show looks like its own unique branch of fringe fetishism; imagine Jabba’s Palace as a BDSM club and you’re nearly there. Karin Dreijer cites leather fetishism and ball-gags as an influence on Plunge, but the imagery at play is infinitely more vibrant than those references suggest. While a whole host of modern electronic artists pull from these same ideas, Fever Ray’s visual interpretation is one of the most unique. It’s occasionally terrifying, while simultaneously reaching incredibly beautiful peaks.

In that Guardian interview, Dreijer referred to her birthplace Gothenburg as being “very sexist and homophobic” despite being a left-leaning city. The line “This country makes it hard to fuck”, from ‘This Country’, is testament to this, and further reinforces the statement made on Fever Ray’s T-shirt, as does the line, “The perverts define my fuck history”. Identifying sexual policing as the real perversion, on ‘This Country’ and ‘Falling’, Fever is at the height of her pursuit of sexual freedom. “She makes me feel dirty again,” she sings on ‘Falling’, homing on the idea of sexuality being stigmatised and under such high scrutiny. The freedom in sexuality is projected way further than the stage; I’ve been to a lot of gigs where LGBTQ or LGBTQ-ally artists have performed, but gay people in the crowd have still been shot looks of disapproval. This isn’t the case at Troxy. Every queer couple is a microcosm of the message Fever Ray is putting across, even the bathrooms have signs that say: “Fever Ray supports equal rights, all restrooms are trans friendly at this venue tonight”.

‘When I Grow Up’, from her 2009 self-titled debut, is quite different to Plunge, both thematically and sonically. Prior to the show I would’ve found it hard to imagine the latest incarnation of Karin Dreijer singing “I want to be a forester, run through the moss on high heels.” Tonight though the song is injected with a new kind of energy. It’s no longer as cold and forlorn - it almost sounds as though it belongs on Plunge, with its added kicks of bongos and synths.

‘Wanna Sip’ and ‘To The Moon And Back’ give us the new version of Fever Ray, carnal desires at the forefront. ‘Wanna Sip’ is easily the most aggressive cut from the night as Fever sings ‘sometimes my head bangs’ over Peder Mannerfelt’s plunging production. ‘To The Moon And Back’ is the highlight, though; its heady conclusion features the three singers running their fingers up an imaginary pussy in front of them. This is perhaps the pivotal song of her career - it introduced us to the explicitly queer force that is Fever Ray.

The encore begins with 2009’s ‘If I Had A Heart’, and the lighting and sound become minimal as Fever Ray and her singers hold identical guitars and harmonise: “More / Give me more / Give me more”. It’s easily the darkest moment of the night, the song echoes a time when Karin Dreijer was bound to the hetero norms she now subverts.

On closer ‘Mama’s Hand’, the final line is “The missing thing called love… a little thing called love”. It encapsulates the show, and everything about Fever Ray’s newly overt queerness. Where at first it can seem like a sexual desire, the lust for love reigns. In a world where the pressure of traditional male-and-female love is erased, the missing thing called love is finally achieved.