Fever Ray's Karen Dreyer created her multifaceted characters during her 14 years as a solo artist. In the year The images for their self-titled debut album, created in 2009 while he was on hiatus from the popular electronic duo Knives with his brother Olaf, portray Dreger as a shamanic vision, inspired by postnatal depression. A face as white as arsenic, painted with triangles and large teeth. In the year 2017 , Dredger returned to his role as a pure pleasure-seeker with a penchant for deceit, delivering bold, driven dives, brutal beats and lyrics. Sporting a bald cap and shimmery purple makeup, Dreyer's vanity swam in everything from body-building outfits to gowns encrusted with pink crystals and pearls.
But in the latest video for her fourth and final single from her new album, Radical Romantics, released on Friday, Dreyer addresses her unlikely form of simple femininity. On the surface, at least, it's simple: dressed like a John Waters vampire from Gray's Paradise, licking his brows on a domed log, walking down the driveway of a cabin in the woods, decked out in glossy retro wallpaper, and wearing red lipstick. They rub their chests with oil, dig graves in the yard, and then fall down. Over a bassline composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Dreier laments his desire for revenge on Zacharias, "the one who bullied my son in high school," a delightful (and wholly coincidental) fatherly ego of Petras. The scene at Karran. It's creepy, creepy, and a little scary—in other words, modern Fever Ray at its best.
"Martin [Faulk, Draeger's creative director] and I had a long conversation about wanting to play a female character, but we couldn't think of a way to do it," she said. "We had to find a fun way to do it." After talking to a fellow drag artist, Dreyer and Falk finally found this "beautiful creature" crawling around their dank boudoir. Dreyer laughed at the absurdity of it all, saying, " Whether we call it the Mona Lisa or the Melody, I don't know what you should call it." "But yeah, it was a fun process."
If there's a touch of humor in the world of radical romance, it's on purpose. The album contains 10 tracks: Open for Sex meets Silly. On the first single (and album opener), "What They Call Us," Dreyer's vocals descend in a scream, yearning for a swinging, techno-influenced synth line reminiscent of Knife's "Silent Scream." "The man who came here is destroyed," they sing. "Can you fix it, can you take care of it?" But the video adds another, more humorous twist: Dreyer, dressed as a clerk in gray overalls (but with a playful tie and green eyeshadow that creates frogs), sifts through scattered papers from a printer in an office. Microwave a concrete-walled cinnamon Swedish bun and descend into a dimly lit underground club, where you succumb to the sweaty, tin-coated spirit of honesty. "That song was the first one I ever wrote," says Dreyer. "And I think it's a good start: all the poems are very beautiful and sweet."
But where Radical Romantics seems like Dreyer's lightest, funkiest offering - the lush, silly choruses of "Candy" and the brutal celebration of the album's introductory highlight "Shiver", the project reveals a pop sensibility seen only in retrospect - the its origins. Sleep in personal turmoil. After the 2018 Dive Tour, Dreyer was exhausted and nearly passed out, suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, and was eventually diagnosed with ADHD. When it came time to start writing for Radical Romantics, Dreyer realized that having the time for it was not just a luxury, but a necessity.
Despite being in touch with the Dredgers via Zoom at their Stockholm home, they seem remarkably relaxed amid rehearsals for their recent tour with choreographer Agnieszka Długaszewska. "I'm usually very slow at making music, but I've been working on it for about three years," he says of the new album. "I think I had the time I needed." Fortunately, when Dräger was ready to start recording in the first year of the pandemic, due in part to Sweden's rather loose lockdown restrictions, she could come to the studio every day. "I think it saved me in that moment," she added.
One detail of the new album that has caught the attention of Dreyer's loyal following is the presence of Olaf Dreyer in the opening quartet of songs. After the duo toured for their fourth studio album, Shaking the Habitual, in 2014, Olaf's inclusion in the Fever Ray episode sparked rumors of a possible Knife reunion.
Dreyer doesn't dispute the possibility—as our conversation says, they clearly have no competition—but argues that it was Olaf's case that helped bring Fever Ray to life, rather than the collaborative record-making process. “When we did the Knives stuff first, he was very democratic and we did everything together,” Dreyer says. "But at the same time, he was more into producing and producing sounds and stuff, and I always had the final say. I think we were very clear that this was Fever Ray and these were Fever Ray songs."
While there's a deep cut to get through the music video peat and a fair amount of Ólavar-crushed visual controller clerical work,” the lyrics make it clear that this is Dredger's territory and Dredger stands alone. As Plang examines the l The art of romance through the lens of embracing one's queer identity, 'Radical Romanticism' taps into broader practices, exploring things like the love and anger that erupts when she exposes her son to abuse in 'Even It Out' and "Co2," juxtaposes a chemical bond - an "infinite excess of nature" in Dreyer's words - and an experience of panic and disorientation.
"I think in my music I'm always trying to find out how love is born," says Dreyer. Bell Hooks : Everything about love serves as a guide for his great journey into the unknown. In radical romanticism. . "I think I've learned over the years, through years of reading, a lot of therapy, and thanks to Belle Hooks, that what you write about love as action is action." They say yes. What I mean by love and good relationships, not just romantic relationships, but all relationships, goes a long way in defining what we're talking about. I think the radical side of that – finding your own needs and also accepting your own needs, I think is often the scariest thing. Because maybe some of your needs are not accepted by others, and therefore you become very vulnerable. "
The record certainly has its weak moments, like the obvious love cry on "North," with its sweeping, expansive textures. Fear of teasing their needs, which is manifested by poking the finger. But overall there's a sort of strange steely confidence. This clearly opens a new chapter in Dreyer's poetic journey through gender as an intersection of negotiation, courtship and parenting. Where Plunge was all about balancing highs and lows, Radical Romantics feels closer to finding balance. “I think it's about knowing your own needs and then communicating those needs to the people around you to create romance,” Dreyer said of the filming theme. "I think it has to start with a kind of self-acceptance. Have the courage to know your needs, it takes a lot of work and a lot of courage to express them. It takes time to think and connect, which are difficult things. In a capitalist society, I still think it's a labor of love."
Radical, at least in Dreyer's will to shape the panorama of sexual desire starting from the growing hostility towards the alien. It's an opportunity to give everyone they know and their fans a comfortable place to enjoy the weird and wonderful sonic universe they've built as they prepare for their tour. "In Sweden, a quarter of our population voted for a party that was part of the Nazi party and now has great influence in our government," they say. I think we have seen many changes affecting all minorities. Gay culture, to take just one example, is something we will never accept.
Dreyer's joy in bringing this new world to life is simple. "I'm always trying to understand why I make music," he says, "and I think I understand it better now." "I think it makes me feel free and also creates a space for others to feel free in these little worlds that music creates." He pauses before they add, "Great, learning new things." Just when you think you've reached Dreyer, they seem completely ready to transform into something else.