Fever Ray: Fever Ray
A paranormally gifted woman stands in front of a barren, twisted and wintry landscape, her face expressionless and intentions unclear. The mysterious cover of Fever Ray’s self-titled debut album invokes a pitch-black, pagan sensibility.
For its designer Martin Ander, the job came at a perfect time. “I had just started to draw by hand again after years of computer dependence when Karin asked me to do the album art for her solo project Fever Ray” he explains. “That was just what I needed to get me started with ink and paper again.”
Fever Ray is the alter-ego of Swedish musician Karen Dreijer Andersson, who is better known as half of brother-sister duo The Knife. When she briefed designer Ander on the cover art, she “gave me a mind map containing old photographs of seanses, haunted houses and people covered with ectoplasm” he recalls, with the instruction that “this is the emotion I want to project”.
Drawing holds a special significance for Ander, the son of the famous Swedish illustrator and political cartoonist Jan-Erik Ander. “I kind of grew up with it”, he says.
But while his father carries on the tradition of political satire, Ander took his approach and inspiration from a more contemporary genre.
“I want people to try to understand and look for clues. That’s something I got from being a longtime fan of skateboard art, where the graphic on the board plays a big part in building the myth behind the rider or company, or in this case Fever Ray.”
It’s an interesting observation on the parallels between cover art and skateboard art. And while the ghost of Charles Burns’ work can be made out in the high-contrast and macabre aesthetic, Anders names influences closer to home. “I’m a big fan of Swedish horror artist Hans Arnold, who is mostly famous for an ABBA album cover and his book illustrations.”
His original brief for Fever Ray included an album cover, some merchandise and two 12” singles, however this body of work has already expanded. “I wanted the images to link together, like a story. The motifs are mostly a result of coincidence, but there is a cohesion. All the images refer to each other, the lyrics, videos and Fever Rays private self. I like the idea that the cover is more than just an image.”
The approach is at the same time vivid and ambiguous, a tension that’s consistent with Fever Ray’s music. She builds creepy soundscapes that are the perfect haunted house for her modulated, androgynised vocals and oblique lyrics.
“I prefer lyrics that are like that”, she said in one interview, “I like to keep it as minimal as possible… It’s very important to keep the magic and the feeling of something you can draw yourself. You don’t want to be too literal.”
As representatives of the almost-supernatural wave of creative talent coming out of Sweden at the moment, Ander and Fever Ray remind us what dark arts both music and design can be.
Note: This article appeared first in Monster Children Magazine
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