We want it all – a review of Fever Ray

This will never end, ’cause I want more
More, give me more, give me more

Media saturation makes simple things hard. Not simple things like digging a ditch, or putting on boots, but things like understanding what our neighbors are doing & thinking. What is happening outside of our own head. The information that I need to understand what is happening outside of my day-to-day experience is edited by active agents. Agents with motivations that are layered: selfish, paid for, and built over time and generations. Social and geological. I don’t stand a chance.

Counter-culture, perfected in the late 60’s, has been our only protection from this frontal assault and, naturally, has become the agent of co-option. Most of us have passed through counter-culture and it has passed through us. Counter culture shaped me into a usable form against the people who raised me and into the shape of the new kind of consumer.

As a young person I liked, preferred, angry music. Anthemic music about something better than the situation I found myself in. I wanted more but didn’t know any way to find it other than through anger and more, more and more.

Fever Ray is the solo act (which is more-or-less meaningless in the digital age of music production) that has spun off from the brother sister act The Knife. The siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer produce electro pop which is dance music (but probably not club music unless it is remixed) with implicit lyrical density. Fever Ray has a softer sound than The Knife but much of the instrumentation and loops are familiar.

We set fire in the snow
It ain’t over, I’m not done

I remember the black skirt the most. It reached to mid calf, was form fitting. Matched with a leather jacket and the striking red hair it remains my most vivid memory of her. As it turns out that memory is the best of what we had together and years later when I saw her again nothing remained but nostalgia. She hadn’t moved and I was miles away. I could barely communicate my good bye.

But it seemed real at the time, and that was enough. Still is, in sad fact, and those partial fragments, the skips between our disappointed experiences with reality and our expectations of what could be are still something I get out of music.

It isn’t a true love kind of relationship anymore as thousands of heartbreaks have finally scarred me to a certain kind of numbness but it’s close enough for this life.

The video for “When I grow up” is one of these moments. Mostly it is about the journey that all nervous brilliant people have when they travel from the known (in this case terra firma) to the unknown (an obscured body of water) but for me, who learned to swim at a late age and have never been a strong swimmer, the imagery was particularly dreadful. I am afraid of water and strongly identify with the transitional character from the video loaded with a kind of arcing energy. I experience it in my social life, in the moments where I succeed and fail, and near water.

It goes from white to red, a little voice in my head says oh, oh, oh

Clearly there is a renaissance happening in the visual arts in Northern Europe that has not crossed over to the techno-blast explosions of American pop music. Attention is being paid to details, visually and against the formalism of counter-culture, that can only speak to the transition of plastic artists to the visual medium. This kind of patience is endangered. Fleeting.

As I listen to the Fever Ray album I am reminded of the beauty and horror of post-modernism. As solitary musicians grab chunks of sound from every culture on the globe and transmogrify them into their own logic, into a dance-able paste of moaning and structured contentlessness, where digital steel drums, clicks and beeps replace rocks and sticks in our subconscious shared moment. I am frightened. This is not the same as what we have lost, of what has come before, but I relate to it.

My relationship to this cybernetic pastiche is a statement of my own bleak position as a consummate Western consumer of the latest craze of bohemian counter-culture. The siblings are famous for not being photographed and wearing masks during their public performances. They are an act and removed from the act. Just like me.

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