Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

Renowned For Sound

For the latest music reviews and interviews

Album Review: Fever Ray – Radical Romantics

3 min read
"While wistful and amorous, Radical Romantics is also about anger, frustration and taking action"... we review Fever Rays latest stellar offering

October 4th is Kanelbullens Day (Cinnamon Bun Day) in Sweden, a national celebration of the sickly sweet pastry that is held dear to most Swedish hearts. Karin Dreiger, the Swedish architect of Fever Ray, chose October 4th as the release date for the first single of their new album Radical Romantics. Perhaps Dreiger’s date of choice represents a positive celebration of the sweet cinnamon bun offerings of love.

Dreiger did recently, initially, describe Radical Romantics as simply a collection of love songs. But Radical Romantics actually pivots more around a wariness of those sweet rewards. Lead single What They Call Us describes the cinnamon bun as a “trick”, “a fire in my hand”, as the album opens to a scene of paranoia in the midst of a broken relationship. Indeed Dreiger somewhat amends their initial assessment of Radical Romantics as a collection of love songs. Really they’re songs on the demands of love, its costs and knowing how to value caution in the immediacy of desire: “You have to know about your own needs and what you need to feel loved and safe within a relationship”, Dreiger says. Establishing that equilibrium while faced with temptation is the knotty tension at the core of Radical Romantics

Dreiger was one half of the sibling duo The Knife which propelled them to electro pop notoriety, while Dreiger’s first self-titled album as Fever Ray received universal critical acclaim, as did their sophomore record Plunge. Radical Romantics sounds like a natural successor to those Fever Ray LPs with its keen sense of atmosphere arising from expertly icy, mechanical production. But Radical Romantics, perhaps more than Dreiger’s first solo album, incorporates elements of The Knife’s sound too in lighter, playful production choices on songs like the colourful “Kandy”. The instrumental is bouncy and fun but Dreiger’s vocals are anguished. It’s an acknowledgement of Dreiger’s now torn relationship with love: “You will probably have to say no to a lot of things that look very fun, but maybe they’re not so good for you”. 

While wistful and amorous, Radical Romantics is also about anger, frustration and taking action. Even It Out integrates a post punk sound akin to Idles’ latest record to channel a lust for revenge. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ imprints are firmly laid on the track with its dark industrial tones and murky electronic flourishes. The track builds an intense, engrossing atmosphere and the kind of distinct wall of noise Reznor has perfected on many a Nine Inch Nails track. 

Shiver is a huge highlight, as Dreiger finds expression in restraint with the song’s minimal, percussive instrumental. The vocals are held back as if a great valve of emotion simmers beneath with the song pining for feelings it can’t quite realise. All it’ll take, Dreiger repeats like a mantra in the chorus, is a “little touch” to release that valve, to trigger the shudder of a “shiver”. Though minimal, the production is intricate and bold with propulsive, layered rhythms and a manipulated sample that recalls Jockstrap’s Jennifer B.  

Carbon Dioxide returns to images of love and sweetness – love is the “softest syrup”. Dreiger approaches love as if it were honey protected by a bees nest, wishing to extract its sweetness but fearful of the sting. In Radical Romantics, the experience of love is sickly sweet like the cherished bun of Kanelbullens Day. Dreiger’s album explores the compulsion to pursue that which most hurts and nourishes you. 

Listening to Radical Romantics is a reminder of Dreiger’s influence on electronic music but also demonstrates how up to date they remain on the genre’s trends. “New Utensils” has the type of mechanical sound found on Flume’s Hi This Is My Mixtape, for instance. “Looking For A Ghost” sees Dreiger enter full Bjorkian mode with its stretched experimental vocals. 

Radical Romantics pursues this variety all while maintaining a consistent identity. Dreiger’s new album imaginatively picks up the pieces of Plunge’s excitable lust, taking in the beauty and pain of acting upon spontaneous desire. If Plunge is the sugar rush of a cinnamon bun, Radical Romantics is your body telling you you’ve had one too many.