By Kim Stolz
I’ve spent the last two years waiting for my favorite band of this decade, Sweden’s the Knife, to come out with a new album. The most recent release I came across was their live “Silent Shout Audiovisual Experience” — and for anyone who has been to one of their live shows, it’s breathtaking and exciting to have those visuals on DVD. But I want more! Fresh material, new songs … A year or so ago, I heard that singer Karin Dreijer was pregnant, and the brother-sister duo was on hiatus. Congrats to her, but disaster for me! Recently, we found out that Olof Dreijer was off in the Amazon recording birds, animals, and nature for a new Darwinian Opera. What? Perhaps a Swede’s take on a Steve Reich-ian/Philip Glass-ian geological/environmental recording concept will be refreshing. Still, though, us Knife fans yearn for the strikingly haunting and beautiful voice of Karin (and don’t you dare say she sounds like Björk!).
Well, the big day has arrived! Karin Dreijer has recorded a solo album under the name Fever Ray. Perhaps some of Olof’s obscure and harder melodies are missing from these new tracks, but this is an opportunity to listen to Karin by herself. And although it is far more accessible and comfortable than that of the likes of Silent Shout, Deep Cuts and the band’s self-titled debut, it still gives the same eerie vibe that Knife fans have grown to obsess over.
Part of what makes the Knife such a cultishly obsessed-over band is the work of video/live-visuals director Andreas Nilsson. As expected, he directed “If I Had a Heart,” the first single and video released from Fever Ray. It’s already my favorite video of the past year, though like most of his videos, I wouldn’t watch it alone in the dark — it’s pretty frightening. And no, you don’t get to see Karin in the flesh (with the exception of her being, unsurprisingly, behind a mask), and although I got to meet her in ’07, you’ll probably never see her face: In interviews, she and Olof generally wear masks.
Over the past few years, dozens of great artists have come out of Sweden. Here, some garnered soft-jock and momentary indie attention (Peter Bjorn and John), others the attention of DJs at electropop clubs (the Sounds), and of course we can’t leave out José Gonzales, who covered The Knife’s “Heartbeats” and found fame through its use on a Sony commercial (ugh). Jens Lekman deserves some credit — he perhaps could be characterized as the Andrew Bird of Sweden. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention MTV News faves Robyn and Lykke Li. However, none of these bands capture the electronic and addictive spirit of the Knife. For those of us who are not quite ready to let the House music of central Europe penetrate our walls (and music industry), we look north to Sweden and the electro-pop/electronic/indie-pop sound of Karin and Olof.
Fever Ray isn’t to be released in the U.S. until March 24, but it’s not hard to find. Happy listening!