Review Summary: Silent Shout, Deadly Shout
From the very first snaking melody of opener «What They Call Us» one is transported to the familiar land of The Knife’s highly regarded (and one of their most accessible) 2006 album «Silent Shout»
. While that statement might seem reductive when talking about the new Fever Ray, it is however applicable since this record marks a reunion between the Dreijer siblings, front-loading the opening section of «Radical Romantics» with the reliable pop sensibility of one of The Knife’s finest offerings.
Naturally, it’s not a mere mechanical retread; the immediacy of the songwriting is hoisted up by haunting synths, sliding in and out of tune, and massive drum patterns, showcasing influence from world music (i.e., «Shiver», «Looking for a Ghost»). The track «Kandy» in particular applies, with a completely straight face, something that sounds like a rather cheesy 80’s style marimba lick; yet the mood is never not sombre or mystical, thanks to Karen’s emotive vocals and forlorn lyricism. The final verse of «What They Call Us» teeters on breaking the wall of mysticism, however, stating with incredible bluntness:
«It's a common misperception
This is not a band
Ready for a dissection
Now mommy's gotta work, see the land»
Indeed, it would be inaccurate to call this a reunion in disguise: out of the album's 10 tracks only the first four are produced by the Dreijer duo. The cut-off is made extremely apparent by "Even It Out" - an electro-punk stomper with an acidic edge, a collaboration with Nine Inch Nails that gives "Radical Romantics"
a most welcome bite. The commanding vocal stabs of "cut, cut, cut!"
In the hook, pitted against booming drums and menacing synthetic textures (with a healthy helping of atonal guitars that are oh so NIN) evoke Siouxsie Sioux, beefed up for the modern age.
Elsewhere in the tracklist, «Carbon Dioxide» employs a driving four on the floor beat and sporadic strings flowing in and out of the mix like debris circling a speeding car inside a wind tunnel. The track plays like a corrupted version of a conventional pop single with its triumphant elevation of «Holding my heart/While falling»
in the chorus, gradually transforming into a manic dance-floor anthem.
After such an energetic romp the record gracefully lulls the listener into a sorrowful trance of «North», again produced by NIN - a slowburner on the topic of physical intimacy, done with Karen’s characteristically primal yet poetic candour.
«I’m calling sex
It’s a way to pass
To see if time
Works this time»
«Tapping Fingers» starts as deceptively simple Fever fair, collecting steam towards a looping drumbeat before suddenly dropping into zero gravity against rumbling bass as Karen glumly stating how «Everything’s better than sleeping, though»
, which flows beautifully into the completely lyric-less closer «Bottom Of The Ocean». Layers of delayed «oh»’s bounce around the listener’s head, steadily getting more and more broken and pleading sounding, as behind them a metallic drone scrapes at the edges of the sky.
Overall, «Radical Romances» stands as a top-tier example of emotionally-driven immediate songwriting and immaculate production; possibly, the finest Fever Ray album yet.