Go on, take the Plunge

Karin Dreijer, from the mysterious Swedish electronic sibling duo The Knife, releases Plunge, her second album as Fever Ray.
Karin Dreijer, from the mysterious Swedish electronic sibling duo The Knife, releases Plunge, her second album as Fever Ray.PHOTO: RABID

Fever Ray rolls out a mixed album of surprises, from Technicolor and upbeat to creepy beautiful and even spooky

ELECTRONICA

PLUNGE

Fever Ray

Rabid

4 stars

It's trick or treat as Karin Dreijer, from the mysterious Swedish electronic sibling duo The Knife, releases Plunge, her second album, as Fever Ray.

It could just be happenstance, but the quiet release of Plunge, so close to Halloween, portends delicious dread.

She does not disappoint. Plunge is the proverbial knife into generic pop, a twist and turn in the cliched idea that morose means one must sound dull or boring.

Far from it: In The Country, a dirge driven by arrhythmic beats and industrial hisses, Dreijer is double-tracked to spooky effect: one voice sweetly pining, the other Olive Oyl.

She yells out her political slogans: "Free abortions and clean water!/ Destroy nuclear!/Destroy boring!"

It's the goth answer to Bjork's 2007 rapturous single Declare Independence, but the Swede's tone is less commanding, more passiveaggressive.

"That's not how to love me," she chants, exhorting you to come unravel her.

Karin Dreijer, from the mysterious Swedish electronic sibling duo The Knife, releases Plunge, her second album as Fever Ray.

When she goes (somewhat) Technicolor, and even upbeat, she goes stratospheric.

The flagship single To The Moon And Back shoots laser synths.

"First I take you then you take me/Breathe some life into a fantasy," she rasps in a sensual dream, more pop Robyn than romantic Kate Bush, but never mind.

She toggles between the technological and the human with supreme insouciance.

"I wanna love you but you're not making it easy," she utters the first lines in the opening track Wanna Sip. Infused with ominous drone at the start, the song ups its tempo. Missiles fall and she articulates her wish: "I wanna peek, I wanna sip."

She pushes further into uncharted territory with IDK About You, an effervescent doozie co-produced with Nidia Minaj, the hotly tipped Portuguese electronic producer who juxtaposes Latin street percussion and scatter-shot F/X.

"I don't know about you," Dreijer repeats, gasping for air amid escalating, looped vocals and breathless cuica, a type of Brazilian friction drum that creates a squeaky timbre.

In Red Trails, a creepy-beautiful ballad which sounds like it could soundtrack a scene from Game Of Thrones, she intones a killer couplet: "Blood was our favourite paint/You were my favourite pain/ Scratches when skin's too thin/Throwing me someone new to take in."

A violin saws through her unusual high pitch. You swallow your saliva.

At the end, she circles back to motherhood, a theme explored on her startling, self-titled debut eight years ago.

In Mama's Hand, easy drums are dusted over an odd, keyboard loop and she recalls the warmth of a mother's hand, searching for "the final puzzle piece"- "a little thing called love".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'Go on, take the Plunge'. Print Edition | Subscribe