Thursday, December 31, 2009

Albums of the Year, 2009 : 5 - Fever Ray - Fever Ray

"The lyrics fly by in a blur of disconnected images, in which childhood memories figure heavily, as does obsessive behaviour, and an attitude to domesticity that borders on the psychotic. "I'm very good with plants, when my friends were away, they let me keep the soil moist," she sings on When I Grow Up, in a voice that suggests anyone leaving her in charge of their greenery should be fully prepared to find her ripping the leaves off and eating the soil on their return.

The result doesn't resemble dance music so much as something from the weirder fringes of 80s pop. The dolorous chords and stately rhythms recall the Cure, circa Faith, the glacial pace makes you think of the Blue Nile. There are lots of the synthesised faux-ethnic sounds popular on Fairlight sampler-driven epics such as Peter Gabriel's fourth eponymous album or Kate Bush's The Dreaming: gamelan-like chimes, oriental motifs, talking-drum percussion. Anyone requiring evidence of Dreijer Andersson's unique talent is directed to Keep the Streets Empty For Me, on which she somehow manages to conjure up an eerie, becalmed atmosphere using synthesised pan pipes.

But it's not just the sound that invokes the lost hinterlands of 80s pop, it's Fever Ray's sense of daring and ambition. It's an album that makes the listener work; its melodic richness is slowly revealed, rather than immediate. Furthermore, Dreijer Andersson let slip that her inspirational sleeplessness was post-natal, which suddenly pushes Fever Ray into largely unexplored territory. Like domestic contentment, new parenthood sits badly with rock and pop music. It tends to be avoided as a topic, possibly because there's much empirical evidence that it brings out the mawkish and trite side of even the greatest artists: at the height of his genius, new fatherhood made Stevie Wonder burp out the wretched Isn't She Lovely? Certainly, it's hard to think of another artist who's nailed the weird package of awe and fear that comes as standard with a newborn baby quite as perfectly as Dreijer Andersson does here. "I live between concrete walls," she sings, her voice prematurely aged. "In my arms, she felt so warm.""

- Alexisis Petridis, The Guardian

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