Fever Ray (aka Karin Dreijer Andersson) is best known as one half of oddball Swedish sibling duo, The Knife. This self-titled debut, recorded in the wake of Silent Shout, mainly echoes that band's more downbeat moments.
Opener If I Had A Heart sets the tone; murky, pared-down electronica (reminiscent, almost, of a John Carpenter score) with a definite hook. Not unafraid to pinch from The Knife's box of tricks, part of Karin’s vocal is electronically treated to sound deep and sinister. The effect is that of a twisted duet.
Indeed, it's the vocals that are most likely to draw newcomers in or push them away. Karin's naked voice is dramatic and untamed. Some will find it refreshing and rather lovely in its own right, while others think her in need of X-Factor style coaching. And not everyone will be enticed when it's manipulated into resembling the possessed Regan from The Exorcist.
The air of Scandanavian weirdness shares a loose connection with Bjork. When I Grow Up has a lyric about wanting to be a forester and throwing boomerangs, but I doubt even Ms Guðmundsdóttir has mentioned "dishwater tablets" (see Seven) in song. It's Concrete Walls that seems to be the darkest track, recapturing that ancient-spookiness-meets-new-technology spirit of Silent Shout but at a slower pace. Keep The Streets Empty For Me and Coconut are like two closing tracks for the price of one, both starkly beautiful, the latter, with its disconcerting bird noises, suggestive of traversing a barren landscape, vultures circling above.
Although Fever Ray is never as infuriatingly catchy as The Knife's best, the album is not short on pop hooks. It's (thankfully) strange enough to be marked "not for everyone", but fans of The Knife should enjoy and may well be left wondering what brother Olof does for his krona.