Truly abrasive and fascinating dance music isn’t easy to come by. With the huge upswing of EDM and pop-focused dance, the genre the more harsh tones of the genre seem to be pushed to the corners. Swedish artist Fever Ray comes at the genre screaming however on her sophomore effort as she dissects politics, love and her life through aggressive beats and synths. While definitely not the easiest listen, there’s enough powerful concepts and ideas on this record that you’ll want to give it a second look.
Intense and suffocating, the album tears open on “Wanna Sip” as pounding beats and ominous synths echo in its massive sound. As everything ramps up, the massive shouts and screeches of synths make for an overwhelming blend that makes you want to run or get up and dance. Flickering the beat within the melody, “Mustn’t Hurry” has a tribal groove to its light sound, slowly bringing more weight to the sound as it goes forward. With shredding synth notes, it blends tones of Peaches, Susanne Sundfør and even a little MØ in its aggressive dance tones.
“A Part of Us” goes dark and digital for a night time EDM push of quirky sounds and bizarre harmonies. While sonically expansive and exhilarating, the track just never seems to lean into its dance tones enough to warrant the lack of variety. Slow and crawling, “Falling” is a visceral burn of methodical drums and pulsating melodies. Through it all, the vocals have a chant-like quality that turn the song from simple art to something ritualistic.
Pulsating the sexual energy done to weirdly glitch-infused moans, “IDK About You” is a demented electronic attack that pushes the boundaries of dance music. Rushing deep into its bridge there’s a rush of African-tinged drums that make it an all-enveloping dance climax. Critiquing politics surrounding love, “This Country” is an abrasive and scary stomp that protests evil ideas. Getting effective and direct in the finale, she screams at the very notion of controlling people’s sex lives.
“Plunge” bounces its beats through a dynamic wash of whistles and simmering synth lines. Letting the low end really breathe this time around, the track works as an instrumental that slowly twists and turns its melodies in interesting ways. Taking her electronica to more funky frontiers on “To The Moon and Back” there’s a nice wooden tone to the notes that permeate the track. Bringing in euphoric pop vocals in the second half, it’s a joyous celebration of music and the movement of life.
With rustic overtones and terrifying string arrangements, “Red Trails” tells haunting tails of blood and times long gone. Winter proves a scary place as the violin’s move from enchanting to dark and aggressive, to match the more deadly themes of the song. Slithering synth lines up and down, “An Itch” is an in-your-face industrial hit of visual lyricism, offering up as much grinding tones as it does off-putting words. “Mama’s Hand” ends the record with a steady swing of off-kilter melody that falls in and out of the beat in fun ways. More dance than anything else, it closes the record on a reflective mood piece.
Words by Owen Maxwell