24.07.2009, Words by Charlie Jones

Fever Ray changes everything.

2009 basically belongs to FEVER RAY, one way or another, and this – her third date since March – is in the gilt-clad surroundings of the Shepherds Bush Empire. Despite this being the first time I’ve caught the show, I already know what to expect: pagan drums, odd costumes, incense, laser show. got it. Sure, looking forward to it, nailbitingly excited etc, but no surprises really on the way, right?

What no one mentioned was the bass – the sheer, gut-wrenching, air-shaping weight of the frequencies. Strong bass – really, really, FWD-strength, soundclash-strength – bass doesn’t vibrate the air so much as thicken it, give the very space a density. Play a song and it sounds nice. Play it with the bass up, and it changes the space.

This was the masterstroke of Fever Ray (ex-Knife, great album, weirdo pagan electro) and Andreas Nilsson, with whom she meticulously planned the live show. It was a celebration of synesthesia and myths – an effort not of playing live, but a way of processing the thoughts in her head into heavy, heavy bass and razor sharp lasers. Bass is hallucinogenic. By so deliberately changing our sensory perception, what was happening on stage felt less like an electro-goth version of the Monster Mash and more like the altered-state pagan ritual it was. It made her songs into physical, daunting, strange things rather than banal sound.

The show – brilliant as it was – needed this physical connection. By unearthing the album’s bottom end, they took the audience’s experience away from detached appreciation and into bodily function. It’s an elegant, urgent battle call – Fever Ray is for experiencing, not analyzing. After we came shuffling, blinking out of the show, there was torrential, open-skies downpour, and me and my friend ran through the rain laughing and shouting and laughing and shouting. It was really fun.

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