Take heed to Fever Ray and study to acknowledge the unrecognizable. On one in every of their new songs, “Looking for a Ghost,” Karin Dreijer plunks out a tune impressed by Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk,” stacking calliope synths behind the berserk couplet “eating out/like cannibal” and a Bob Marley quote. Then this sexy little collage of references slowly assumes form: Of their slyly honest manner, Dreijer is writing a personals advert. “Looking for a person/With a special kind of smile,” it reads. “Teeth like razors/Fingers like spice.” You realize, somebody who offers you that tingle. Lisbon producer Nídia suits them with a corkscrewing synth and a beat that lurches and jingles. “Looking for a ghost in the midst of life,” Dreijer says, which may nearly be a literal grievance about queer courting in a single’s forties, after which they wink: “Asking for a friend/Who’s kind of shy.”
Shy or not, we’ve come to know Dreijer higher since their days as a shadowy beaked determine alongside their brother Olof within the heady digital mission the Knife. As Fever Ray, they make synth-pop with mucous membrane and muscle reminiscence, writing songs that throw off unlikely hooks (“mustn’t hurry”) and chart new orbital paths round massive pop constructions. With a title like a university seminar and Dreijer’s signature mix of kink and principle, Radical Romantics is basically a group of notes on love. Love—whether or not horny, overwhelming, or vengeful—hyperlinks collectively the recurring motivations of the Fever Ray catalog: curiosity and exploration, household born and chosen, sexual freedom and pleasure. Up to now, maybe, they’ve sung about love as one thing imprecise and unknowable. Now they go searching.
Within the run-up to 2017’s vivid and lustful Plunge, Dreijer talked about their courting experiments with candor that got here as a shock. “I’ve been on Tinder,” they mentioned then, presumably with a glint of their eye. Plunge was no stranger to like but additionally referred to as it “the final puzzle piece.” Anyone will inform you that to seek out it, first you will need to look inside. Like many, Dreijer shifted their priorities throughout the pandemic, saying not too long ago that the previous few years offered them house to follow persistence. In a contemporary tradition that promotes love as instantaneous gratification—hold swiping—Fever Ray now search elsewhere. Referencing bell hooks’ influential All About Love and Reward From the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s 1955 religious bestseller, Dreijer is on an interior quest by a area of grownup heartache that’s much less typically explored.
There are a sometimes savvy assortment of collaborators: Together with Nídia on “Looking for a Ghost,” there’s Olof, whose sorcerous entice doorways flip the album’s first 4 tracks into an unofficial and much-anticipated Knife reunion; English producer Vessel, on the standout “Carbon Dioxide”; Aasthma, the manufacturing duo of Peder Mannerfelt and Pär Grindvik, on “Tapping Fingers”; and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, whose creeping industrial groans give Dreijer’s actuality the bizarre thrill of fiction. The baleful temper kicks in on “Even It Out,” a small act of cosmic reckoning: “This is for Zacharias/Who bullied my kid in high school/There’s no room for you/And we know where you live!” Dreijer yowls. The place Lydia Tár stoops, Dreijer stands. “I do things methodically,” they sneer, slicing up the phrase as implied violence: “M-m-m-m-m-methodically.”