Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Spotlight : Karin Dreijer Andersson, The Black Riding Mood

 You might think that I'm neglecting this blog. You're partly right, but it is because I live by a rule that is "when you have nothing to say, saying nothing is better than saying stupidities or to repeat yourself". When I read magazines and other blogs, I have the impression to suffer from enormous deja-vus, they're all with stripes, and Gucci and summer ... To be honest, this is the season that bores me the more and these days, fashion is the least of my worries. I've prefered to devote myself to the writing of my fifth novel. It's generally what I do when I am particularly deceived by the cultural releases, that is to say novels, movies and music. When I see a world, with the wonderful cultural inheritance we know, which, prefering easiness, releases movies such as The Red Riding Hood, that really motivates me to produce something better. But I have choosed this example because this turkey had a least an advantage : its soundtrack features an artist I really admire and who inspires me a lot.
 This lady's name is Karin Dreijer Andersson. The 36 years old Swede is the voice and the spirit of two amazing bands : Fever Ray, which signs the song The Wolf on the Red Riding Hood's soundtrack, and iconic electronic duo The Knife, with her brother Olof. Both might be unfamiliar to you if you're not into electronic music, but even if Karin and her projects are still very discreet, they have a huge impact in the contemporary world of music.
I ran into The Knife by chance, some years ago. At the time, my electronical universe was limited to male voices, either trip hop (Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps) or industrial, such as Hocico, Das Ich and other brutal lyricism. My only female experiences were Goldfrapp and Björk, who I regarded as the strangest of my tastes. So, the first time I heard a song of The Knife, it was quite a revolution.
 It looked like an alien encounter; you can't help but have the strong feeling that you have met something superior, something more intense. Let's start with Neverland, from their second album, Silent Shout (2006), it is an easy introduction. If you're caught, then you could dare to enter deeper in their unusual vibrancy and their universe, an odd mix of darkness, bitterness, childhood and fairyland. They quote David Lynch, Donnie Darko, Kate Bush and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but you can expect to find more from your unconscious than in any psychotherapy. But don't expect a classical relationship, because The Knife is not here to satisfy masses, and they're not afraid to shock your ears and your expectations. Silent shout is quite disturbing, and you will tend to prefer Deep Cuts (2003) and The Knife (2001), perhaps more academic. Their latest creation, Tomorrow, in a Year (2010) in association with Mt. Sims is even harder to reach (don't say creepy !), even for I who appreciate the sound of Matthew Sims
 But, what makes the band so unique is the voice and personality of Karin. At the same time very pure, but fragile, she is constantly at the limits of shrill and sweetish in her singing, which makes a huge contrast with her play on her appearance, very dark and tribal. While with The Knife, she liked to hide herself behind a plague doctor mask : but don't see any Gaga attempt here. The lady doesn't like mainstream attention. Nominated thrice at the Grammis (the Swedish equivalent of the Grammy Awards), she never came, even when she had won several prizes. Her taste for costumes and her contribution to movies' soundtracks could remind of band Daft Punk, but Karin Dreijer Andersson is much more than a marketing mystery. She stands for women in the music industry, for the minorities, and succeeds in offering a rare mysticism to a world where music is devoted to money and fame.
 Her solo project, Fever Ray, founded in 2009, led her to throw the masks, and she adopted tribal paintings and somptuous costumes. Death and shamanism are the main visual themes, but loneliness is what stands out from the album. Many critics have qualified her work of "claustrophobic", but I quite disagree with the term, or we are putting a different meaning here. The music of The Knife recalled the countryside, dense forests of dark pine trees, large desert plain, and was more organic, even if cold, as those of Ladytron. With Fever Ray, Andersson migrates inside the cities by night, the gloomy interiors, the Platonician grottos with their lack of realism and their nightmares, finding Neverland again. With this new and outstanding aesthetism, she has decided to explore darker sides of her music, even if, for the moment, it is still close to those of The Knife, a fact that critics can't help but underline. But Karin is from those creatures who develop herselves without the look and opinion of the others, and her work is still the most sensible and remarkable innovation I've seen in music industry so far.
Katie Stelmanis from Austra - Nika Roza Danilova from Zola Jesus
 Moreover, she has opened the way for girls in electronic music, far from the clichés of the sexy djs of trendy parties (Miss Kittin and other IT girls suddenly turned musically inspired; that doesn't prevent them from having talent, don't make me say what I didn't). Now, the blondes with distorded voices are a new trend, and if they're not all of great quality, they still offer some good tunes. We can quote Canadian singer Katie Stelmanis, who acts both in solo and with band Austra, and Russian American Nika Roza Danilova, better known under the name of Zola Jesus. In the brunettes' side, Björk has found a spiritual daughter in Grimes, another Canadian singer. The common point of those youngsters is the dark mood, and they are often dubbed witches by narrow-minded journalists. Put some Rick Owens on them and they will consider them as the new IT girls ...
As for Karin Dreijer Andersson, no risk to find her inside the pages of a fashion magazine, even if her style is more interesting and intense than those of an Alexa Chung (seriously, she's cute, but who's that girl ?). Just listen to her music, like it or hate it. But find out that there is life outside of the filmography of Catherine Hardwicke ...
Claire Boucher aka Grimes - copyright David J. Romero
(If you know or own the copyright of one of this photos, please contact me.)