Fever Ray - Fever Ray - Review
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critics' view

“This country makes it hard to fuck!” Karin Dreijer bellows on “This Country,” one of the more startling songs in her catalogue. “No definitions in our own needs,” she sings, “The perverts define my fuck history.” That's just one of many defiantly queer moments on Plunge, an album that uses sexuality and self-determination as a weapon against the oppression of normalcy. “We're not attractive to this country's standards,” she practically spits. On Plunge, Dreijer internalizes the anarcho-feminist themes of The Knife's Shaking The Habitual and channels its rebellion against patriarchal society into something personal. The album burns its way through its 47 minutes with a determination and focus we've scarcely heard from Dreijer before.

Dreijer undergoes a sexual awakening on Plunge, and at some points sounds like an alien learning about love and lust for the first time. She's wide-eyed at what she discovers—and what she discovers, she likes. The lyrics are more explicit than usual. Dreijer declares that “I want to run my fingers up your pussy” on the otherwise radio-friendly single “To The Moon And Back,” whose video presents its protagonist as the willing sub at a BDSM tea party. She embraces, and then questions, wanting to “feel dirty” on “Falling,” a blend of shame and excitement that should be familiar to anyone who's ever dared to venture beyond the norms of sexuality.

Plunge is just as bold in its production. Dreijer reunites with Peder Mannerfelt, who contributed to the first Fever Ray album and whose fingerprints are visible on some of the record's more techno-influenced moments. But Mannerfelt mostly works behind the scenes to reinforce Dreijer's synth leads and rhythmic tics. And where those squiggly melodies and bouncing drums once sounded alien, here the pitch-bending and undulating melodies feel like an expression of the album's human themes.

There are some stylistic diversions from the usual Dreijer sounds. “Red Trails,” a song with lyrics like “Blood was our favourite paint / You were my favourite pain,” has a beautiful violin solo by Sara Parkman and surprisingly delicate production from Paula Temple (who appears three times on Plunge). And there's “IDK About You,” a 160 BPM heart palpitation of a song produced by Nidía. The song expresses the extremes of curiosity, eagerness and reticence you might experience with online dating.

If the feelings on past records could seem impenetrable or odd, the emotional chaos on Plunge is much more representative of the real spectrum of human feeling—when there's no clean line between love and disappointment, lust and hatred, mania and loneliness. “It used to bother me that violence is as intimate as love,” Dreijer writes in a note on the Fever Ray website, “but I see that you have resolved that problem by dissolving the two into each other.” On Plunge, sex is violence, and violence is sex, just like the sensual, bloody imagery that accompanied the album's rollout.

These themes of queerness and sexuality make Plunge feel remarkably current. They echo those of artists like Arca, SOPHIE and Rabit, producers who express their queerness by altering and transforming sounds into unnatural and sometimes queasy shapes. But it never feels like Dreijer is playing catch-up. Plunge is the natural next step, a realization of impulses that have long lain dormant, or at least unrecognized. Maybe Dreijer was waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to her.

Andrew Ryce
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