8 April 2013

Album Review: The Knife - Shaking The Habitual

Imagine that you come across the Arctic Monkeys album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not for the first time, not knowing what to expect. Upon first listening you’ll hear songs by some lads with guitars about their lives in a provincial English city – nightclub bouncers, fragile relationships. You might love it, you might hate it, but its context allows the listener to pick up the album’s setting without fuss.
the-knife-shaking-the-habitualNow imagine that you find yourself in a haunted house on a strange planet where a cackling witch holds court about feminism, economics and ecology while her brother throws a selection of percussion instruments around the room. After a while the two musicians get bored of this and head outside for more of the same. Then they come back inside and carry on. Something else altogether, but close to the experience that is ‘Shaking The Habitual’.
Swedish duo The Knife, reunited after both embarking on well-received solo projects, are at their bonkers best on the album’s uncompromising dance tracks – ‘Without You My Life Would Be Boring’ and ‘Networking’, bringing to mind electrons bouncing around the world’s wires. ‘Stay Out Here’ is a masterpiece in song structure, with both siblings’ interwoven vocals coming together to with fantastic energy.
It is unfortunate that the lengthy soundscapes, including the monumental ‘Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized’ fall flat, instead relying on sheer duration for their impact: this is music to be endured rather than explored. ‘Raging Lung’ provides the ideal counterpoint. A sound akin to a gutsier Portishead, with emotionally charged vocals, and brass stabs splashed over the score, it is a rare moment of light showing how rich, strange and brilliant The Knife’s music can be.

Originally published at HI! Magazine.