Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Radical Romantics is a heart on sleeve offering featuring classic Fever Ray conviction

"Radical Romantics"

Release date: 10 March 2023
Fever Ray - Radical Romantics cover
07 March 2023, 09:00 Written by Kate Crudgington

In a world of political upheaval, economic uncertainty and gender discrimination, choosing to love on your own terms feels like a radical act of defiance.

Karin Dreijer, the mastermind behind Fever Ray, explores this urgent type of resistance from idiosyncratic angles on their third album, Radical Romantics. Inspired by everything from the revolutionary literature of Bell Hooks, to their personal epiphanies about true desire and what it means to be patient, Dreijer’s new record magnifies their heightened state of sensitivity and smoulders with distinctive Fever Ray flair.

It’s been six years since Dreijer released Plunge, a potent and joyful celebration of queer freedom. Packed with playful and political mantras like “Free abortions / and clean water / Destroy nuclear / Destroy boring” on the anthemic “This Country”, Plunge was a lightning bolt of alt-pop energy, fizzing with palpable hunger, lust and vitality. On Radical Romantics, Dreijer remains playful and political to their core, but this time, the volume feels turned down in comparison to its predecessor. This allows space for Fever Ray to speak clearly as they traverse more introverted territory.

This journey has been aided by an impressive list of collaborators. Working alongside their brother and The Knife collaborator Olof once again in a shared studio, Dreijer co-produced “What They Call Us”, “New Utensils”, “Shiver” and “Kandy”. They enlisted the help of Portuguese producer Nídia (“Looking For A Ghost”), British experimental composer Vessel (“Carbon Dioxide”) and the inimitable talents of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on “Even It Out” and “North” too. The amalgamation of these influences has resulted in a sharp, cohesive cacophony of feverish sounds.

Opening the record with a direct apology - First I’d like to say that I’m sorry” - on the quietly commanding “What They Call Us”, Dreijer sets the scene for what’s to come. “The person who came here was broken / can you fix it / can you care?” they implore, unravelling over lilting electronics and altruistic beats. By allowing themselves to linger in uncomfortable emotions and ask these vulnerable questions, Dreijer seamlessly shifts between the sensual and the sensitive. Ambiguity is key in these scenarios though, as Dreijer sharply reminds listeners that “it's a common misperception” that Fever Ray is not a band “ready for a dissection”. Take what you want from their observations, but don’t assume they’re prescriptive or verbatim to their own.

This sensuality is at its most potent on the magnetic bop “Carbon Dioxide” – inspired by the intoxicating adrenaline that comes with a new crush – the breathy, yearning of “North”, and the buoyant synths that pleasurably ricochet between the ears on “Shiver”. “I just wanna be touched / I just wanna shiver / can I trust you?” Dreijer repeats, manifesting the pleasure they crave through their idiosyncratic vocal tones. This desire for satisfaction, in all of its forms, permeates Radical Romantics.

To be truly satisfied though, one must be sensitive to the idea that your needs might not be met. Dreijer is freshly tuned into this vulnerable state on the hypnotic “Kandy”. “What if I die with a song inside of me / alone forever?” they question over warm synth sounds, countering these anxieties with “Be still and patient / a new sounding instrument / we deserve rest”. This newfound patience is tested on the ominous, score-settling tunnel vision of “Even It Out”.

Lyrically, Dreijer takes aim at the bully who targeted their child at school, but it serves as a wider warning to those who think they won’t be held accountable for their damaging behaviour (“There’s no room for you / and we know where you live / one day we might come after you / taking back what’s ours”). Concluding on an epic, peaceful note, the seven-minute “Bottom Of The Ocean” lulls with the subtle power of Dreijer’s extended, meditative “oh-uh’s”.

Hitting the sweet spot between pleasure and pain is a fine art, but it’s one that Fever Ray does exceptionally well. To be romantic is to submit yourself to all the shades on the spectrum of emotion, balancing the light with the dark. On Radical Romantics, Dreijer wears their heart on their sleeve and delivers their stories of love and lust with classic Fever Ray conviction.

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