Live at Troxy
Fever Ray is Karin Drejier, a Swedish artist who first came to fame as one half of The Knife, with their brother, Olof. The Knife went kaputski in 2014, by which Karin had already cut their first album as Fever Ray. Fever Ray dropped in 2009 and, as much as The Knife were unlike anything else out there, Fever Ray took it one step further. This album is perhaps best known for the killer track ‘If I Had a Heart,’ which was the theme song for the atrociously horrible, yet watchable TV show, Vikings (seriously, it was horrible, poorly acted, poorly written, and I just couldn’t stop watching). I always wondered why the vocals on this track sounded like Olof Drejier and Live at Troxy solves the riddle for me.
Fever Ray went on an epic tour in 2018 behind their second album, Plunge, which came out in late 2017. Like their début, this album was a wonderfully twisted slice of electronica, easily one of the best albums of the year. As with the 2014 tour behind The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual tour, Fever Ray expanded from Drejier into a large-scale spectacle on stage. Each performer, including them, was in costume, creating a carnivalesque appearance. Even better, they challenged male dominance in the music industry, hiring as many women as possible for the show, and more than that, not only were the bulk of the performers, like Drejier over 40, but also mostly working parents. This is insanely important. Given their platform, and Fever Ray could’ve played it straight, but that’s not how they roll, of course. Ensuring the empowerment of women, working parents, and performers over the age of 40 is a massive statement for them to be making here. In other words, Fever Ray was challenging the ageism and sexism of not just the performing world, but the world in general here.
The Plunge tour saw all live instrumentation and singing. And that’s what makes this live album kind of stunning. Fever Ray is an entirely electronic project on record. And a brilliant one at that. But here, live, they have instrumentation that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Peter Gabriel or Paul Simon album. The difference? For Gabriel and Simon, the music sounds somewhat trite and very FM AOR. For Fever Ray, on the other hand, it sounds vital and fresh.
Plunge was also significant because it came after Drejier came out, and thus the album saw them celebrate their sexuality. Of course, this is what hetero artists do all the time, so it really shouldn’t be a big fucking deal. But that was the point of the album, it is sexual, it is celebratory and it is meant for the big stage, in total contrast to the dark and desolate début album.
But here, even tracks from that first album sound fresh and new, in large part because they were re-arranged somewhat musically with higher vocals and more animated percussion. This is particularly noticeable on ‘When I Grow Up’ and ‘Concrete Walls.’ It is perhaps most obvious on that epically beautiful ‘If I Had a Heart.’ And listening to this track live, I finally realized it is Fever Ray singing it, not their brother, they have just masked and deepened their voice with vocal effects.
The bulk of Live at Troxy is taken from Plunge. Particularly epic live are the tracks ‘IDK About You,’ ‘A Part of Us,’ ‘This Country’ and Plunge’s début single, ‘To the Moon and Back.’
Long and short, Live at Troxy is a wonderful document of the live performance of a singular artist, and it is eternally amazing to me that instrumentation that sounds middle-class, middle-aged and pedestrian in most instances sounds so vital and alive with Fever Ray.