It’s clear now which end of The Knife features the blood-spattered blade. Karin Dreijer Andersson took a break from her better-known project in order to get some air, but her eponymous debut as Fever Ray is countless times more claustrophobic and creepy than Silent Shout. It also holds its own against that incredibly strong record, mining similar depth of field (an epic, sludge-caked trek as always) but eschewing easier beats for black soundscapes that push back against Andersson’s poisoned breath. On songs like “When I Grow Up,” her croon sounds desperate and starved, stretched out over echoing guitar, sparse percussion and effects, while tracks like “If I Had A Heart” paint her as the puppetmaster, voice eerily downshifted and juxtaposed against her suddenly terrifying au natural. The vocal transformer is such a huge part of what Andersson does—androgynizing her words to accompany the cold music, mimicking the synth warbles and sustained tones that abound—that it’s a genuine surprise just how organic (as in pagan-witchcraft organic) Fever Ray feels when all’s said and done. Perhaps it’s in the details: In the vibraphone (presumably) that warms “Now’s The Only Time I Know,” or in the often oddly terrestrial lyrics. (“I’m very good with plants / when my friends are away, they let me keep the soil moist.”) Whatever it is, it’s chill-inducing, like The Knife, but decidedly of this world.
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