The solo project of Karin Dreijer (one half of the excellent electronic duo the Knife) could not arrive at a better time. With the Knife no longer active, and eight years having pass since her debut record under the Fever Ray moniker, Dreijer revisits many of the stylistic intricacies inherent in the Knife’s DNA, while further evolving her take on Fever Ray.
When Fever Ray was released back in 2009 it felt like a distinct chapter for Dreijer, stepping further away from the early sound of the Knife, relishing the dark perspective of Silent Shout, but also moving towards a darker, more personal and atmospheric presence. The album was excellent, able to conjure a very bleak quality but present it also with an otherworldly sensation, making it that more intriguing. Dropped down tempos, pitched down vocal delivery and a more minimalistic take on the instrumentation became the characteristic elements of her debut album.
This is what Plunge comes in to unravel, presenting a different take on Dreijet’s solo project. The dark, meditative work of Fever Ray has given way to the frantic and manic state of Plunge. This is a record that revels in the chaos of electronic music, its crazed rhythms and its infectious grooves. The Knife has always been so excellent in performing variations of the standard, repetitive electronic format, augmenting them with slight deviations, and that is a treat that Fever Ray has fully embraced here. Really shining at the faster parts of opening track “Wanna Sip”, this simple notion comes to flip the perspective as the uptempo moments of Plunge, something that Fever Ray lacked, showcase the full extent of the anarchical energy of Dreijer’s compositions.
The haunting element that made Fever Ray such a unique release is still present, but it has taken a different form. “This Country” for instance features some of the most horrifying synth parts found in this record, a twisted melody perfect for being the soundtrack of someone slowly spiralling down to madness. On the other hand, “Falling” displays a chilling essence when it kicks in, taking advantage of the slower tempo to bring this darkened element to the front. And it is in that moments, when the tempo is brought down and the pace tends towards the earlier releases that Fever Ray takes on its most impressive form, be it in the repetitive mantras of “Mustn’t Hurry” or the more personal and emotive quality of “A Part of Us”.
Because despite the more energetic approach, the one aspect that still remains intact is the melodic and lyrical pedigree that has always been present for Fever Ray and the Knife releases. “Red Trails” presents Dreijer’s chaotic world under a different light, going for an emotional response rather than havoc, while “An Itch” relishes its colder touch on top of the delicate background melodies. The further down one travels in Plunge, the less manic and more introspective the record tends to become. The title track and “To the Moon and Back” act as the halfway point, stuck between Dreijer’s earlier and current self, while when the record finishes with “Mama’s Hand” it wraps things up in a very smooth and delicate fashion.
It is to be expected that an artist such as Karin Dreijer will not remain planted on a particular sound, and that is exactly what she has done with Plunge. Moving away from the roots of Fever Ray, but retaining its crucial characteristics, she is able to redefine the project. The transformation is similar to the one the Knife performed when moving from the cold, detached and dark sound of Silent Shout to the extravagant and experimental Shaking the Habitual.