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 Rayâ€™s self-titled debut album invokes a pitch-black, pagan sensibility.
For its designer Martin Ander, the job came at a perfect time. â€œI 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 Rayâ€ he explains. â€œThat was just what I needed to get me started with ink and paper again.â€
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 â€œgave me a mind map containing old photographs of seanses, haunted houses and people covered with ectoplasmâ€ he recalls, with the instruction that â€œthis is the emotion I want to projectâ€.
Drawing holds a special significance for Ander, the son of the famous Swedish illustrator and political cartoonist Jan-Erik Ander. â€œI kind of grew up with itâ€, he says.
But while his father carries on the tradition of political satire, Ander took his approach and inspiration from a more contemporary genre.
â€œI want people to try to understand and look for clues. Thatâ€™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.â€
Itâ€™s an interesting observation on the parallels between cover art and skateboard art. And while the ghost of Charles Burnsâ€™ work can be made out in the high-contrast and macabre aesthetic, Anders names influences closer to home. â€œIâ€™m a big fan of Swedish horror artist Hans Arnold, who is mostly famous for an ABBA album cover and his book illustrations.â€
His original brief for Fever Ray included an album cover, some merchandise and two 12â€ singles, however this body of work has already expanded. â€œI 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.â€
The approach is at the same time vivid and ambiguous, a tension thatâ€™s consistent with Fever Rayâ€™s music. She builds creepy soundscapes that are the perfect haunted house for her modulated, androgynised vocals and oblique lyrics.
â€œI prefer lyrics that are like thatâ€, she said in one interview, â€œI like to keep it as minimal as possibleâ€¦ Itâ€™s very important to keep the magic and the feeling of something you can draw yourself. You donâ€™t want to be too literal.â€
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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