Album Review: Fever Ray - Plunge
On her self-titled 2009 album, Fever Ray sounded sleep-deprived, isolated, spaced-out and generally just seemed to be working through the trials of being a new mother. It was no wonder she claimed it would be the one and only album from the project. But now, over 8 years on, Fever Ray has returned, and much has changed within and without her. For starters there are the obvious clues of changes in her life: Andersson conspicuously missing from Karin Dreijer’s name, the album cover which bears her face practically unobstructed (certifiably naked compared to most of the facial garbs we’ve seen her adorn over the years) and the essay that accompanied the release of the announcement of the album that starts “it is a joy to meet you.” She seems a lot happier, or at least more energetic and outgoing, coming into second album Plunge. But that only seems to bring her up against more frustrations in the world around her, which are wrought vividly in ambitious electronic compositions.
This is evidenced immediately on first track ‘Wanna Sip’, which opens the album by claiming “I wanna love you but you’re not making it easy.” These feelings are then lit by a super-charged rhythm, livelier than anything heard from Fever Ray before, and slashed through with dive-bombing synths as she claims that her affection is “a toxic habit.” This dallying with desire is the constant force driving the album, which is alive with conflict in both her lyrics and the frenzied beats that crop up throughout. She comes across as somewhat bashful on ‘IDK About You’, the invigorating skitter-stomp of the production emphasising her youthful giddiness as she intones “let’s find out what you’re all about,” before swivelling into the flirtatious, playing hard-to-get chorus. She’s much less reserved later on ‘To The Moon And Back’ where a tropical melody whizzes around as she delights in the touch and tastes of a lover, before cutting to the chase: “I want to run my fingers up your pussy.”
More of the darker side of Fever Ray comes to the fore on ‘Red Trails’, which does away largely with the electronics in favour of flaying strings, as she reflects “Blood was your favourite paint/ you were my favourite pain.” It’s one of a number of more stoic moments for Fever Ray on the album. ‘Mustn’t Hurry’ sees her reining in the mania of the majority of the album, bringing a steady-paced beat and hazy hovering synth as she pragmatically casts an eye over the requisites of her life - writing songs, meeting someone, creating a family – and tries not to get ahead of herself. On ‘An Itch’ she presents an indomitable synth drawl, coupled with her jadedness for having spent too many nights with strangers, and simply states “Imagine touched by somebody who loves you.”
This tornado of triggers and hormones comes to a head on Plunge’s central track ‘This Country’. Indirectly aimed at the current regime, Fever Ray morphs the daily oppression and calamities to which we stand witness into a tale of brutal, physical love, but one against which she’s determined to stand up: “gag me and wake my fighting spirit.” The harrowing, bruised dark blue of the stretched-out synth enshrouds the song in defiance, and she comes up with one of the most quotable lines of the year as she repeatedly yelps “this country makes it hard to fuck.”
Fever Ray takes up many archetypal mantles throughout Plunge: mother, lover, singer, warrior – and in doing so she fully expresses the multi-faceted nature of being a citizen of the modern world. There’s plenty of fighting to be done, that’s clear, but it can’t come at the expense of happiness and enjoyment. As she signs off the album on ‘Mama’s Hand’ she puts her finger directly on it: “Our right to be at ease/ The final puzzle piece/ this little thing called love.”
This article was originally published on The 405 - 1st November 2017.