Review Summary: A Silent Shout you just have to hear
I love it when my favorite artists release increasingly better records every time, and seem to just keep plowing through their musical artistry and letting nothing get in their way. This is the case with The Knife, a Swedish laptop duo who have only gotten better since their naive origins in 2001. With their debut The Knife
, Karin and Olaf Dreijer created something likable with potential and reasonable charm. They took a step forward in 2003 with Deep Cuts
, a poppier, remotely political album that improved on both Karin's vocals and Olaf's use of electronic beats, overall sounding more refined and unique. Now, this is Silent Shout
, their 2006 plunge into darkness and their most admirable effort to date. This record sees The Knife at their most inspired, creative and utterly talented. Shying away from playful antics while keeping a strange atmosphere tethered down, Silent Shout
is the product of a more deep and sophisticated source of ideas.
For one thing, the album's production is excellent. Olaf created more lure by using material/organic samples, such as "Marble House"'s clacking marbles rapidly snapping its way into the song, or "Like a Pen" who's rhythm materializes from the intro of formless water droplets gradually turning into a beat. Most mentionable is the exotic "We Share Our Mother's Health", which is basically built from the ground up out of myriad computer buzzes and bleeps. There are also much more strongly-defined computer noises that light and explode the brilliant title track with incredible raving flare. The songs feel much more danceable this time around too, adopting a murky, icy club atmosphere that The Knife prove they are very good at with the title track, "Neverland" and "Forest Families". Most of these songs have a great rhythm and progression, while others feel more loose and ethereal such as "From Off To On" and "Na Na Na". All of them are much darker though, which is good because this album is also very refreshing and and a crafty gem in The Knife's discography.
While the production itself is great, both the lyrics and vocals have taken a comfortable form in this record's eeriness. The lyrics, in general, are less straightforward and are a bit more "listener-defined", or more open to interpretation. "Like a Pen" and "Silent Shout" in particular have some very cryptic lyrics, but they aren't worthless gibberish by any means. Basically, they are well-written for whatever the hell they are supposed to mean. Karin's vocals have come a long way from her start in 2001, doing exactly what she needed to improve on initially and doing more in the process. She's trying new things and using several new vocal inflections. On "The Captain", she makes her voice sound like she inhaled helium without the high pitch, which is strange of course, but works for the song. "Na Na Na" however shows off much more high-pitched vocals. Then there's the meshing of her and Olaf's whispers on "Silent Shout", which makes the vocal parts of that song mellow and chilling. Other than that, you can find subtle plays of tone and pitch on almost every song on Silent Shout
. The computer guy Olaf does sing like he did on Deep Cuts
, and those of you that know me know that I have no preference for his voice whatsoever. Somehow the vibe and atmosphere of this album makes his awkward singing feel normal however, seeing as Karin's doing strange things with her voice all over the place anyways. To me, this record has both of the siblings' best voices to date.
The album as a whole can be enjoyed all at once or in individual doses. Singularly, each song is unique and different in its own way, with virtually no filler to hinder the experience. Songs range from the moody and haunting "Marble House", the fist-pumping vigor of "Neverland", the bouncy and heavy "One Hit", or the slow-paced but rewarding "The Captain". There's plenty to offer for individual servings, and this record loses no power when listened to all at once. The flow is smooth between each track, with the more energetic songs at the beginning and growing more somber as the tracks roll on. Even shorter tracks "Na Na Na" and "Still Light", which could be considered an interlude and an outro respectively, keep the momentum churning and have the melody and grace to remain interesting. Little bores here, and while some later songs dull in comparison to "Silent Shout" or "We Share Our Mother's Health", they are all effective and never filler. On Deep Cuts
, The Knife seemed to have some less-than-nescesary songs that just built the 17-track foundation at best, but here there are 11 sturdy, carefully crafted and well-compressed songs that in the end make Silent Shout
a fantastic experience. Its The Knife's best yet, more sophisticated and catchy than ever before, with the lasting value to boot. This is worth it for fans of electronic music, and an essential for The Knife fans. Silent Shout
is a unique and murky performance from one of Sweden's more charming and interesting electronic groups, and an excellent album all the way through.