“Hey, remember me? I’ve been working like crazy”. After eight years from her last solo album and four years out from any new music, that’s how Karin Dreijer, as Fever Ray, greets us. The lines are the first ones we hear on “To the Moon and Back,” the first single from her new album Plunge, and the years of work are apparent. The video is unsettling, kinky and even slightly humorous, featuring some figures that appeared in early teaser videos for the album centered on a service called “Karma Kinksters.”
Not two weeks after the teasers were released, Dreijer announced the arrival of the full album on October 27th. The full album continues the unsettling-kinky-humorous tone of the first single, while adding a dash of pop that wasn’t on the previous Fever Ray release.
The previous self-titled release, from early 2009, was acclaimed for its minimal beats and intense atmosphere. In the years since that album, Dreijer and her brother Olof recorded two more albums with their electronic band The Knife, before announcing the band’s end in 2014. Despite The Knife’s end, Dreijer’s new album carries on more of that group’s danceable beats and memorable lyrics rather than the creeping dread created by Fever Ray.
The first track, “Wanna Sip,” immediately, well, plunges you into the world of the album with energetic beats and memorable hooks. Here Dreijer proclaims “I want to love you but you’re not making it easy,” a sentiment that is a sort of undercurrent carried throughout the album. This is essentially Dreijer’s version of a love album, and done in her distinctive style it’s convincing as a personal exploration of the universal.
The album’s 11 songs are largely instantly memorable and separable from each other, unlike the songs of Fever Ray which often bled together. Lengthwise the album could maybe be two songs shorter and be just the right length, but it never becomes a drag. Besides “To the Moon and Back,” “IDK About You” and “This Country” are particularly ear-wormy, with the former track coming closest to being a traditional-sounding flirty pop come-on until the instrumentation and effects create an aural experience slightly more explicit than the traditional pop tune. “This Country” is the song with the most dash of humor added, with the line “tell me something sexy and I’ll log off my whatever” tossed off in a sardonic tone, and vocal effects added to make Andersson’s voice sound like a pouty animated mouse. The ending refrain, “This country makes it hard to fuck” is one of the more relatable pop sentiments I’ve heard this year.
The last third of the album slows down a bit, with “An Itch” and “Mama’s Hand” circling back around to the allure of love. “An Itch” asks you to “imagine touch by somebody who loves you,” while the last lines of the album in “Mama’s Hand” state “the final puzzle piece [is] this little thing called love/the missing thing called love.”
The title of the album is truly apt, as once the album ends you feel as though you’ve emerged from a foreign world. Dreijer is extremely skilled in creating atmosphere and mood with her music and her various modes of singing that can range from vulnerable, sardonic, primal, to curious or even slightly joyous. After so many years away, Plunge guarantees that Dreijer is still a unique talent who couldn’t make uninteresting music if she tried.