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Fever Ray
Radical Romantics Irina Shtreis , March 17th, 2023 09:55

The third solo album by Sweden's Karin Dreijer explores the outer dimensions of love

Those familiar with previous works by Fever Ray and The Knife, Karin Dreijer's former project, will most likely be ready for a challenge. Like the artist's second album, the thought-provoking and political Plunge, new offering Radical Romantics throws down the gauntlet. This time, Dreijer deconstructs ideas and unravels the bundle of meanings that feed into the myth of love.

Audio and visual elements emerge here as inseparable and equally essential. The striking cover portrays Dreijer dressed in a male suit. While grey locks and withering skin suggest deathliness, their direct look ignites affection. Combined with the title, it inevitably conjures up romantic concepts, like 'till death do us part', but first and foremost suggests a rebellious stance.

Musically, Dreijer has chosen the right language to convey meanings dimmed by clichés such as gender binaries, social units, religious interpretation, etc. The alien-sounding electronic texture is pervaded by androgynous vocals that express Dreijer's gender-fluid identity. It's a formula that was implemented on The Knife's albums and resurfaces here with the help of Karen’s brother and former member of the duo, Olof Dreijer, who has co-produced the first four tracks on Radical Romantics (the lengthy list of collaborators also includes Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as Portuguese producer Nídia to name a few). Although generally under the umbrella of electronic music, the album draws from several different wells: dizzying pop on 'Carbon Dioxide', sinister Duran Duran-meets-Magazine type new wave on 'Even It Out', and ambient ebbing-flowing vibes on album closer 'Bottom Of The Ocean’. Compared to the preceding Plunge, this new album is more adventurous, perhaps, attempting to summon diverse and emotionally challenging experiences of a relationship.

Depending on a listener's experience and expectations, Radical Romantics can be found as uncomfortable as it is accommodating. The album tackles its subject with an attitude that exudes boldness and acceptance. In the whirlpool of sound on 'Carbon Dioxide', Dreijer makes their position clear: "Pour yourself out of the sea / Softest syrup over me / Sipping a sparkling tumour / Wish me courage, strength and a sense of humour." Eloquent metaphors aside, it's a much-needed antidote to an uncompromising world guided by hierarchy and inequality.