The DJ Sessions


Fever Ray, Mu'Ju @ Hamer Hall, Melbourne

The | June 10, 2024

Mo’Ju, who once described themselves as too queer, too brown and not attractive enough to be able to sell their music successfully, seemed surprised and delighted by the fact that a decent-sized crowd had come early to see them play.

As it turned out, many of them were hugely supportive fans, and their heart-warming cheers demonstrated that despite adversity, Mo’Ju’s has won themselves a deeply loyal following. They dealt a short set of songs primarily concerned with identity, heritage, and finding one’s place in the world—universal themes that strike a strong emotional chord in the hearts of fans.

Supported by a couple of players on keys and electronic percussion, they left plenty of space in the mix for Mo’Ju’s soulful vocals. While the grooves felt a little low-key, it’s Mo’Ju’s assertive presence that is the centre of attention. Mo’Ju tunes lean heavily on blues, soul, and R&B influences, which seemingly all melted into a lusciously warm sound that wrapped itself around the hall like a hug.

There is a buzz of excitement in the hall in anticipation of Karin Dreijer’s first show in Melbourne. They have been around since the late nineties, with The Knife before going solo on their Fever Ray project, but much to the disappointment of their followers, Dreijer has never toured Australia until now.

Their band congregates under a dimly lit streetlight in the middle of the stage. There is a sense of mystery about the group, who look like shady characters with sinister intent emerging from the darkness. Desire and fear are key ingredients of the internalised drama of these songs. There is a certain menace about how Fever Ray present, but it’s never threatening because any actual intent melts into a dreamlike presentation with dark undercurrents.

Now identifying as gender-fluid, Dreijer comes on stage dressed in a white suit and, consistent with the gothic elements of their music, looks like a zombie/vampire version of The Thin White Duke. Dreijer stalks the stage with an amusing machismo swagger. Important to understand, though, that Dreijer took inspiration for some of their gender-fluid looks from the painter Odd Nerdrum’s nude self-portrait. Dreijer’s idiosyncratic approach is eclectic, but everything they take inspiration from is made to coalesce into a cohesive, entertaining whole. It’s also all crafted with an incredible eye for detail.

The show starts with What They Call Us. It connects Mo’Ju’s musings on being an outsider but in an entirely different way. Luscious layers of synths and solid beats played on an electronic drum kit form the basis of Fever Ray’s gothic techno-pop. Dreijer’s powerhouse vocals are almost perfectly matched by their backing singers. The show is fully choreographed, and when moving in unison, the trio exude a strange, seductive mystique that borders on the supernatural. It feels sleazy, but because of the divide between the audience and what’s happening on stage, the show leaves us feeling oddly voyeuristic.

The set list primarily showcased last year’s exceptional Radical Romantics, but older material like When I Grow Up elicits a huge roar of approval from the crowd. It’s largely an invitation to dance, and some in the crowd take this as their cue to get on their feet. As the set evolves, more and more start dancing, and after about four or five tunes, the entire auditorium is on its feet, giving Fever Ray permission to turn the show into a full-tilt rave. Fans know what’s coming, and most go wild when they shriek ‘I want to run my fingers up your pussy’ on To The Moon And Back. It’s followed by Shiver, which has more than just a glint of desire in its eyes.  

Siouxsie Sioux feels like a point of reference, but the simultaneously seductive and sinister edge of Dreijer’s vocals is nothing short of mesmerising in its own right. Even It Out, An Itch and I’m Not Done move across all three Fever Ray albums, highlighting a certain consistency and the lengths Dreijer has gone to make sure their take on techno-pop is completely future-proofed.

When the lights shift from drizzly blue to a rainbow of colour, it feels like we are in a gaudy neon-lit nightclub on the edge of the universe, experiencing some distant alien culture. The driving Carbon Dioxide offers an exhilarating workout for the senses while reminding us that the global warming clock is really ticking.

Squeezing around 15 songs into 90 minutes does leave us wondering what extended versions of these songs would be like. Our encounter with Fever Ray feels brief, and it’s hard not to wish this dance party could have gone on all night.

The solemn If I Had A Heart, with its strange occult chants that reverberate heavily across the room, is a strangely beautiful highlight that brings down the show. Fever Ray returns dressed in hooded, shiny black ponchos to deliver the wild rumble of Coconuts. Let’s hope it’s not another 20 years before Dreijer returns to Australia.

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