Album Review

Fever Ray, 'Fever Ray'

April 13, 2009
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Indie Rock Fever Ray Fever Ray
ESSENTIAL "Now's the Only Time I Know"

The low, echoing drone that begins this record only gradually reveals the metronome-like mechanical beat pulsing beneath it. This album, the first solo effort by Karin Dreijer Andersson of Swedish electro-pop wizards the Knife, works in much the same way. Upon repeated listening, chilly soundscapes crack open, exposing rhythms not entirely human in origin. Is it live, or is it Memorex? Who cares? "Fever Ray" is not quite the equal of the Knife's 2006 gem, "Silent Shout"; the pithy lyrics of that work have been subsumed by sound here, mixed underneath the bleeping, whizzing synthesizers that are its artificial heart. Andersson's voice is tampered with so that it, too, often resembles another synth, less expressive than atmospheric. "Seven" sounds like "Violator"-era Depeche Mode fronted by a robot trained ineptly to imitate the sound of Kelly Clarkson's voice. "Now's the Only Time I Know" is one of the lone tracks to move Andersson's voice front and center, and it's correspondingly the poppiest ditty here. Spare and quirky, like a dub remix of some forgotten 1980s Top 40 hit, it slowly, repeatedly builds to a swooping chorus all the more melodious for its relative rarity. (Out now)