After a long silence Fever Ray burst back with an X rated single, a golden shower music video and a new album all in the space of a whirlwind. It’s interesting how a lot of the comments on her Facebook group seem quite divided in opinion initially over the new album. I generally find social media to love to be negative and for all the talk of the new album being so different – I don’t really see it as much of a step removed from Karin’s period in The Knife, or her amazing debut. I stand quite firmly on the if you liked what’s come before, you’ll like this too – so long as you enjoy harsh and pointed sounds.
Plunge’s album kicks off in the most angular and pointed fashion with the riotous “Wanna Sip”. It’s chunky beats, harsh synths and saw tooth squeals evoke an immediacy, a sleazy feel and a closeness that is trying to abrasively turn on all your senses. It’s dark, dank, sensory and erotic in an alien and synthetic way – but with Karin’s off kilter processed voice, there’s a siren like allure too. It’s something the album refuses to budge on throughout but this track is possibly the most explosive and immediate. “Mustn’t Hurry” is a more industrial dirge that trips and slinks itself through bendy synth chords and feels like one of the closest tracks to her previous solo work. It’s dark and lurid growls and moans make the brighter “A Part of Us” even more of a strangely warped alien euphoria. Featuring Tami T, there’s a full on robotic duet for the chorus as an electronic heart bleep grooves out over militant tiny snare drums. It’s rigid percussion plays at odds with how fluid all the synths and keyboards are and it’s that kind of electronic chaos that makes Fever Ray’s sound on this album stand out.
The five-minute mechanical noise based “Falling” is part drone, part processing factory providing a vapour-wave like drum beat and Karin goes out of her to not sing along with the rest of the track. It’s disarray among ongoing order and onward marching initially is quite off-putting but on repeat listens, there’s a slow build to a nadir moment where things collide together in a satisfying free fall way. It’s placement before the percussive anger of “IDK About You” plays to both tracks favour as they are total opposites. The latter’s percussion reminds me of a psychedelic Japanese rockers OOIOO who just smash everything like a hyper happy dance track that’s completely not in keeping with whatever is going on. It makes this one a grower if not a shower although it’s a perfect one to let you hair down and freak out to.
The brash and forceful push continues with “This Country”. The metallic synths, sexual lyrics (which are there throughout the album) which includes the excellent lines “This country makes it hard to fuck” and “the perverts define my fuck history”. Wouldn’t want to meet her out on a booze up weekend in Spain! However, the whole track has a stop/start grind to it that makes it feel like every line and melodic pitch is literally being thrust in and out. It’s clever, sexual and quite mind-boggling. Karin’s declarative lyrics take a breather for the title track which is a slick five and half minute instrumental that feels at home in the Silent Shout era – as does a fair bit of this album is it was renamed “fucking loud shout”.
Single “To the Moon and Back” is one of the brighter and more melodic pieces and I can absolutely see why it was the single. It’s running synth lines are infectious, the shivering beats work to create edge and flair and the sexual prowess and explicit nature of the lyrics really do prepare you for what’s coming as an album taster. It’s also the happiest track on the album too. You can just about get away with clubbing to it. Just. “Red Trails” is an oddity on the album as it’s really the only track that features any instruments that feel organic. The eastern string arrangement on this beautifully dark down tempo tape chewed song is lovely and really adds a bit of air and seduction to what is an underground neon album. Karin’s vocals also really go for it here in the higher register and there are some lovely moments. Whilst you could argue it’s the most feminine piece of the album, I think the point is the other ten songs express femininity in a very different light as this feels like the more subservient and less confident side of the album lyrically. “An Itch” explodes with brass stabs and siren drums and drags us back in a flash though. Almost like a warning alert to not let that side win, this is call to arms to let you imagine the cross over from sex to love. It’s interesting then that the album ends in the bossa nova electronica of “Mama’s Hand” which see’s Karin feel like she’s regressed back to a child again. It’s a lovely underplayed song and a perfect outro to the album that can change perspective depending on whom you are in the relationship and if you just think this is another exploratory fetish piece. It’s chirpy bird melody is a soothing club lullaby and ends a forceful album with a bit of warmth.
In what is definitely sexiest and filthiest album of the year (you can be both right?) Fever Ray has created an album that shows off the empowerment of sexual liberation and thought. It shows and tells you the ugly side as well as the benefits and is going to probably be one of the albums you’ll suddenly click with two years later and it will be like an old favourite.
Recommended Track : Wanna Sip