Fever Ray or Karin Dreijer‘s secret

When, for the first time, I saw Fever Ray’s video clip for the song “Seven”, I thought that I am being fooled by my own ima­gin­a­tion. Then I did not know that well, what she is Karin Dreijer Andersson from Sweden and an old lady in the lead­ing role quite mis­guided me. I also did not anti­cip­ate that a game with masks and forms, in the acquaint­ance with this per­former, has only star­ted and threatens to cause a pos­it­ive dependence.

Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson. Alone with her own ideas, fears and chan­ging exter­ior per­son­al­ity. But we should start from the begin­ning, when in 1999, the former vocal­ist of a per­spect­ive band Honey Is Cool turned to a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion. Those, who already know the name Fever Ray, prob­ably will have heard another – The Knife. Only on this pro­ject they work as a pair, together with her brother Olof Dreijer. They are intriguing and even a little fright­en­ing skep­tics, ador­ing mys­ter­i­ous masks in photo ses­sions and loy­alty to gloomy elec­tro­pop sounds. Together they cre­ated Rabid Records stu­dio, in which the whole mys­tic of the duet is con­ver­ted into sounds. The third The Knife album “Silent Shout” won six Sweden Grammy awards. In addi­tion, they won two Grammies in 2003, when they were selec­ted as the best pop band in Sweden, though they boy­cot­ted the award cere­mony by send­ing two in gor­illa cos­tumes dressed per­sons to rep­res­ent them. After the big wave of recog­ni­tion, Karin needed a break. Would you be sur­prised after hear­ing that the author of such hor­ri­fy­ingly cold music is also a mother of two chil­dren? Actually, she takes inspir­a­tion for the lyr­ics from her chil­dren too.

The Knife did not die and gave a great begin­ning for a solo Karin’s pro­ject that star­ted in 2009. The need for space? She felt that she prob­ably couldn’t real­ize some ideas in the com­pany as she would like, even if the com­pany is her brother. In this case, The Knife was a bridge to an even deeper forest called Fever Ray, in which almost no sun light can be seen and wild anim­als walk around dressed in black cloaks. These two pro­jects are almost dra­mat­ic­ally dif­fer­ent, even though it’s not easy to feel that from the begin­ning because the vocal and the elec­tronic styl­istic in almost the same. However, Fever Ray is not pur­su­ing an effect­ive inva­sion, it’s a slow pro­cess of col­on­iz­ing, in one way or the other, affect­ing the listener’s inner world, darker, angrier and more mys­ter­i­ous. The ideas became a mater­ial real­ity after releas­ing the “Fever Ray” album in 2009 that received a lot of sup­port from the audi­ence. Some of you will notice that this album reflects the best moments from The Knife album “Silent Shout”, which is con­sidered to be the peak of the duet’s suc­cess. Andersson man­aged to dis­cover a par­tic­u­lar for­mula for cre­at­ing music and tak­ing it into hardly reach­able heights.

I think the music should be able to stand for itself without inter­fer­ing, like what the artist looks like. That’s some­thing you find out dur­ing the pro­cess, it’s a steady ongo­ing pro­cess about how you sur­vive. When you work with music, you have the pos­sib­il­ity to cre­ate magic.

The piece “Now’s the only time I know” per­fectly dis­plays the quirk­i­ness of her voice adapt­ing to the rhythm of music and the mood. I don’t know whether because of that and is it only me, but it prob­ably became the most mem­or­able, trans­port­ing into new spaces even when walk­ing along the same path for the hun­dredth time, shout­ing together with your own dry – rot fea­ture. Meanwhile, “If I had a heart” became the first Fever Ray’s single and star­ted a new colony in the world of elec­tron­ics’ map. I recom­mend you to listen to it whilst the even­ing lights in the streets are com­ing on. Andersson has also worked with Norwegian elec­tronic music pion­eers Röyksopp. Her vocal is heard in the com­pos­i­tions “What else is there”, “Tricky tricky” and “This must be it”. In the video clip, “What else is there” she is tra­di­tion­ally embod­ied by a hired model.

Karin’s cre­ation doesn’t end with sound record­ings. Every video clip con­veys a dif­fer­ent vis­ion, with dif­fer­ent masks and con­stantly dif­fer­ent authors. Alone as well as with her brother, she gives an espe­cially great effort for this work. Usually, a known Swede artist Andreas Nilsson, who also worked with such groups as MGMT, Moby, Goldfrapp, helps them. The char­ac­ters are sort of search­ing for them­selves, pray­ing to a non – exist­ent God, won­der­ing through unknown spaces and risk­ing to come in con­tact with their own fears. Yes, as there is not one Fever Ray’s song about love, there is no clip that would be eas­ily com­pre­hen­ded. The cold­ness of a tri­angle, sur­real­ism and antiquity remind­ing motives of occult­ism is suc­cess­fully com­bined here. The com­bin­a­tion quite affect­ively mis­leads those, who are search­ing for the answer. And also, what is the point of show­ing your real face in photo ses­sions, if instead we can show, how the music sounds? It was the philo­sophy of The Knife and Fever Ray kept sim­ilar tra­di­tions, only now it’s a bit more straight­for­ward. She also appears in the “Stranger than kind­ness” video clip. However, if there is no per­fectly con­ceal­ing mask, it feels that it’s not going to be a dis­clos­ure that would present the performer’s inner world as a simplest math­em­at­ical for­mula in a school book for five graders. Even if you hear “If I had a heart I could love you”, the term “I” is only another secret amongst the abund­ance of oth­ers. She writes song lyr­ics so that the con­text would keep a bound­ary between a fairy tale and personality.

The single “Stranger than kind­ness”, recor­ded after the whole album was fin­ished, airs a bright addi­tion of cold­ness into the Fever Ray’s dis­co­graphy. Karin’s voice sounds without earlier shown hints of fem­in­in­ity and the lyr­ics breathe pain and dis­or­i­ent­a­tion. “There is no hope there is no bread, we sit at the gate and scratch”. Will this be a new step in her music? I star­ted to notice a big­ger res­ist­ance to the mod­ern world, the imposed order, the soul­less towers and the pet­ri­fac­tion of thought. There is a state­ment of fact, without hope, in solitude, without the wish to know more and without naïve dreams.


But maybe some­times it’s bet­ter not to go there, where you’re not wel­come, where know­ledge and uncon­di­tional clar­ity are not the best resort? Whilst listen­ing to Fever Ray, you will always be left in solitude, after get­ting the right to hear the sound of a mys­ter­i­ous action. That screen­play doesn’t belong to you and it never will. Only stabbing cold in the night, in a non – exist­ent forest.

Do my hair, paint eye­lash,
Reappear in a flash
There is more I‘d like to know.
Nine fif­teen and I am done
Quiet front seat then drive around,
Through the water through the snow

Kristina Alijošiūtė
About author:
Kristina Alijošiūtė
Kristina Alijošiūtė is Art Pit’s editor and blogger, also contributing in design solutions. She mostly focuses on quality and freshness of topics, but also values motivated irony and ability to stand out. Writing was always more a pleasure than an obligation to her. She also respects those who are not afraid to write subjectively. Kristina ... Read further >
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