For someone who has worked very hard to maintain anonymity, Fever Ray’s latest album is difficult to ignore. As the operating room bright lighting on the cover suggests, you shouldn’t look away. One half of The Knife, Karin Dreijer Andersson’s solo project returns with Plunge, the follow-up to her eponymous 2009 debut LP and a weird, bold electronic album. Similar to The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual (2013), Plunge includes a manifesto, a piece of writing accompanying the album to reinforce Dreijer’s treatise on love and sex in a post-gender, humanist society. This multimedia approach is one of many reasons Plunge feels less like an album and more like a fully idealized work of art. But despite the high-concept packaging, several of the tracks could stand on their own as dance pop singles.
Plunge begins with the almost coy “Wanna Sip.” Dreijer’s requests are modest—“I wanna peek / I wanna sip”—but the music is forceful. With screaming sirens and busted synths, Fever Ray continues to incorporate the interesting percussion and synthesizer arrangements that the Dreijer siblings are synonymous with. “Mustn’t Hurry,” “Falling,” and “Red Trails” are spooky and slow tempo, reminiscent of the previous Fever Ray album. “IDK About You” and “Plunge” are frenzied dance jams. The distortion on tracks like “This Country” has a gritty swagger, like Nine Inch Nails with more of a wink.
Lyrically, Dreijer is absurd and serious in the same breath. Her bracing candor (“This house makes it hard to fuck / this country makes it hard to fuck”) conveys urgency without sentimentality. On “To the Moon and Back,” the bubble of a pop track is burst with the startling line, “I want to run my fingers up your pussy.” There is violence to the sex she sings about, hidden cutely under sugary vocals. The final two tracks, “An Itch” and “Mama’s Hand” are creepy, haunting songs about love, a part of sex that Dreijer pays little mind to on the previous portion of the album. “Mama’s Hand” draws softly to an end, letting you down gently.
At its core, Plunge is an album about sex; yet at the same time, completely unsexy. The intentional avoidance of rote female sexuality is refreshing. Dreijer’s strict adherence to stripping her work of intimacy creates a blank canvas for big ideas. Even with a dancefloor dose of mainstream appeal, she does her best to make you sit up and listen. Dreijer creates music that is alienating and alluring at the same time, a perfect tension to get her point across. Nothing is romanticized on Plunge. Instead it’s just honest, occasionally bleak, and irrefutably human.
Notable Tracks: “Musn’t Hurry” | “This Country” | “To the Moon and Back”