Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson, one half of the Swedish brother-and-sister duo The Knife. On her first album by herself, she doesn’t stray far from that partnership’s pulsing, knotty electronic pop; Fever Ray, in fact, might be defined by the same paradoxes that were part of The Knife’s 2006 album Silent Shout—brooding but buoyant, cerebral but romantic, cryptic but immediately accessible, almost symphonically grand and yet suffocatingly dense and phantasmagoric at the same time.
One thing that’s missing in the comparison is the loose connection to dance music that was maintained on Silent Shout. The songs on Fever Ray, built on minimal synth melodies, programmed beats, distorted guitars, and Andersson’s icily manipulated vocals, exist in their own closed universe. It’s only barely pop; it shares its measured pace and obsessive attention to detail with minimalist electronic composers like Aphex Twin and Fennesz, even if its melodies are as concise and memorable as any top 40 single. Andersson has absorbed influence from all over the place, but she’s put them together into something entirely her own; there’s nothing off-putting or difficult about the individual pieces of Fever Ray, but it all adds up to something utterly alien.