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  Fever Ray  
  Fever Ray  
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Fever Ray is the solo project of Karin Dreijer Andersson, also of The Knife, who are on hiatus. The Knife are one of those bands that i just missed somehow. I am sure that there are tons of bands that pass me by unexpectedly – such is the nature of music in this mass-marketed, over-populated, global economy.

A few months back an online friend posted a link to a video for When I Grow Up, and even though i normally don't get into videos, i watched this one several times. The visuals are diusticntly odd, but the music is odd in a very engaging and unique way. Andersson is primarily a vocalist, but she also does all of the music here, mostly on synths but also feeding some real guitar and percussion into a computer. The sounds are heavily manipulated, meaning that Andersson takes the sound files and twists, turns, and distorts them into something else. She even does this with her vocals, which are often slowed down to make an eerie deep sound from her normally high-pitched voice.

The vocals are, quite frankly, weird. She treats the voice tracks as just like any other instrument that, once fed into the computer, can be changed. It is unusual to see people treat a voice like this. Normally singing is held up on a pedestal, to be mixed in the fore-front of any song, and fans are expected to learn the words. I actually hate that idolization of singing (and American Idol is, really, American Singer), and it is perhaps unsurprising that i was introduced to Fever Ray on a Cocteau Twins fan community. (Lead Cocteau Elizabeth Fraser was doing something similar with her voice, although she did it analog as opposed to Andersson's digital manipulation...) The point is that the vocal treatments here will turn off some listeners. Let's face it -- a lot of people listen to music expecting to hear some sort of revelatory communication from a vocalist. Whatever. If that is you, then the twisting distorted vocals here might not appeal to you.

But there is a lot going on in Fever Ray aside from the voice. The music that backs up the singing is full of droning synth tones, simple looped guitar, and clattering percussion. The songs soar while ebbing and flowing in an almost organic fashion, as if they are living things that are twisting through a brief existence. This is not a verse-chorus-verse song structure.

For example, the record starts off with If I Had a Heart. Here, Andersson's voice is slowed down, making it deeper. She couples this with a deep wavering synth tone and low thudding beat to create an unsettling start to the record. Eventually, her unaffected voice is layered in as well and the song grows, becoming larger and more expansive.

Andersson follows this with the song that introduced me to the band, When I Grow Up. The voice is not digitally affected here, but she sings in a twisting and distorted fashion, torturing each note Bjorkily. The music backing her up is a hollow, tinkling beat and breathy, soaring synths. This is a remarkably well done song that moves in fascinating layers. I have listened to it many times over the past few months, and it still grabs me as something fresh and unique even after many listens.

And that is what impresses me so much about this record: for all of the quirkiness and (quite frankly) 80s sounding synth tones, when taken as a whole package the record sounds fresh, invigorating, and new. For example, i think the best track here is Keep the Streets Empty For Me. This starts slowly, with echoed drums, a faint tinkling of guitar, and a low droning synth. Imagine Slint covering a Duran Duran song, and that is the sort of feel that the song gives. But it grows, swelling, becoming huge, as Andersson layers in multiple voices with clattering percussion and sawing guitar. Nothing new – no sounds you haven't heard before. Heck, you have probably heard a lot of these same combinations before, but Andersson makes it sound compelling and fresh.

I could go on here, but I'll stop. There are just over 48 minutes on this record, and yet when i listen, it seems over almost immediately. Things that are good tend to warp time like that – it flies by so that you barely notice it… I am very impressed with this record, and now i feel that i need to go back and listen to The Knife to see what that band is like.

Fever Ray make some very interesting music, but it is quirky and odd music. This record is an intense listening experience, but one that i find to be rewarding.

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