I have recently been listening to Fever Ray, an electronic artist who I admire and greatly respect. Fever Ray is perhaps better known as one half of The Knife, a Swedish electronic band formed in 1999, consisting of the brother and sister Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson. Fever Ray, Karin’s musical alias, has so far released one full length self titled solo album back in 2009. The Knife have also recently collaborated with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock to produce ‘Tomorrow, In A Year‘, an electronic opera based on Charles Darwin’s book ‘On the Origin of Species’, for a Danish theatre company, which was released in 2010. I should probably mention here that ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ is quite unlike anything The Knife have done before. As this review clearly mentions there are moments, often long, where the listener can feel underwhelmed, but, with perseverance, it does pay off with beautifully crafted songs that help to explore and share Darwin’s ideas of the natural world. The one standout track is ‘The Colouring of Pigeons‘, an 11 minute mini magnum opus that helps to showcase the combined talents of all the artists involved, as well as some quite interesting opera singing. However, as much as I’d tout that particular song, it is well worth listening to the album in full to feel the magnificent effect of ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’.
The Knife first came to my conscious attention at a house party in my 1st year at University, where upon hearing the opening bars of the song ‘Heartbeats‘ I instantly became enthralled. It may be in part due to the free-flowing beer and my relaxed state of mine, but the song perfectly complimented the house party atmosphere with the dark makeshift dance floor in the living room padded out with the big booming bass speakers. The song, and that moment, is fixed in my mind as a black and white scene, for the pure raw emotion of the memory. I have linked the live version of the song because the live DVD of The Knife in concert is invigorating, with its mixture of screens and multimedia projections. The performance of the band in masks highlight the personal choices of The Knife, with regards to publicity and marketing. it was shortly after hearing ‘Heartbeats’ that I ordered my first Knife CD (‘Deep Cuts’, which includes ‘Heartbeats’), and trawled through their back catalogue. Earlier albums include the 1st self titled album (2001), the soundtrack for the ‘Hannah Med H‘ film (2003), and ‘Deep Cuts (2003)’. The release of ‘Silent Shout‘ in 2006, their most recent album, was noted for its darker sounding songs and lyrical content, whilst the ‘Silent Shout- An Audio Visual Experience‘ DVD was also released in the same year. A new CD is slated for release this year, but no details can be ascertained as of yet.
Planningtorock and Mt. Sims are both currently based in Berlin, Germany, which is a city that lies close to my heart and lingers often in my thoughts. Having heard of both of these acts through the ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ album I investigated them further, and became entranced by ‘W‘, an album released in 2011 by Planningtorock. It is a carefully crafted album that explores electronic pop through its dark and sometimes grueling landscape. Planningtorock has stated that by allowing distortion on her voice it lets her play around with both sound of the gender and of the emotional feeling of the songs on album, and it is a strong record, perfectly capturing her playful side but also including dark melancholic themes. Perhaps two of my favourite songs from ‘W’ include ‘The Breaks‘ and ‘Going Wrong‘. Where ‘The Breaks’ explores the fragility of the human with frank and often startlingly lyrics with a throbbing beat, whilst ‘Going Wrong’ lures the listener with lush strings and turns slowly sinister. They are both gems to beholden, and the videos to both songs are simple in design but remain disconcerting and ever so slightly surreal. Over at the Guardian website there is an interview with the Bolton born musician describing her feelings on her second album ‘W’, whilst the Pitchfork.com reviews the album and highlights some of the themes prevalent in both The Knife and Planningtorock.
Now this is where I have to admit to not having heard much of Mt. Sims, but what I have heard I have thoroughly enjoyed. This shall shortly change. In the meantime enjoy one of my favourite songs of the Fever Ray album, ‘Leave the Streets Empty For Me’. As with the majority of the videos for Fever Ray, this video is a marvelous example of the pairing of artistic vision and medium, with both the song and the video helping to accentuate each other. Enjoy…