Review Summary: Dimming the lights on their previous work, The Knife rediscover themselves, and they discover that they are quite good.
On my iTunes, the Knife is listed above Kool Keith
in the artists section. Why is this significant? Well dispute playing for two different genres, Keith being the rapper and The Knife being the laptop electronica duo under review, they both have a way of doing their own thing among the other people who do what they do. Certainly no one except maybe recently MF Doom
has taken the idea of giving a rapper multiple identities, not only in name but also in style and dress as Keith has done, naming and recording himself under "Black Elvis" and his most famous alias, "Dr Octagon". While not going under alternative names to record their music, The Knife instead put focus on making their music sound different with their approach of using a laptop for recording most of their beats and most of their songs. Since these beats exist purely on said laptop, it is hard to be able to perform live, but with laptops increasingly becoming a popular accompaniment for certain artists who play live (such as Girl Talk
) this change of scenery can be taken lightly; except this album does not contain the light that the name would bring. Not a light album by any means at all but instead it asserts its moods as danceable, electronic pop songs with both male and female vocals with the feeling of cold and ice, like there is a rave but there are no lights, just beats. By staying what they are and while putting on a dark mask , the band does what they do best and they do it quite well.
The piece begins with the title track, Silent Shout
which sets the cold and distant tone that will remain a part of the music the entire time. The most interesting part of this piece is not the lyrics, nor the low bass sounds that play as the rhythm section for it, but the combination of Karin and Olaf Dreijer's voices that become another sound section in it, sort of like another instrument. This interplay of voices comes in a minute into the song, complimenting the already established muff keyboard and bass thumps. It stays in the treble, balancing both sides of the musical scale and becoming a balanced attack. Just like My Bloody Valentine
, emphasis is taken off the lyrics since not only are they difficult to understand at most points, the music that is made becomes the focus rendering them irrelevant. The veil on the keyboards is soon taken off and it is allowed to join in with the vocals fully in the mix, only being placed on the sidelines during the vocal parts. Eventually synthetic drums become part of the song and the ambiance comes into effect during the breaks which are played sometimes. The light but dark ambient approach has been established, but there is much more to go as displayed on the next track, Neverland
. Changing the scheme with Karin taking the vocalist spot, her thick accent weaving through the story of Neverland. "Eyes are sober, this is the plan/I'm sitting in a car heading Neverland/A fancy man, a fancy man/He's pointing with the fingers that are left on his hand"
introduces the band as storytellers and adds to their roles as not only being mood setters. The synthetic drums and the end existing as a keyboard outro shows The Knife not to be a one trick pony, capable of flawed yes, but still decent tricks.
Obscurity and a land made of ice and snow isn't the only place that the Knife dwell however; being lead into the minimal spotlight by Jose Gonzalez
version of their older song "Heartbeats
combined with having released videos and decent distribution of their newest album through Rabid Records have lead the band to make songs that would be designated as singles. The first one of these is the most produced and the most active one, "We Share Our Mother's Health"
. Both of the members sing on this one but instead of the same time, Olaf's voice is the reflection found in the low pond to Karin's high and mighty parts. The reflection of their duties adding to the song is not the only thing though, so are the added and never since heard noises that are revealed here. Sure the old spaceship noises begin it and the similar bass beat with quirky keyboard keep it going until drums section it, here are the robot noises being played and here is Karin waiting to babble on senselessly. We share our mothers' health/It is what we've been dealt"
she states, [i]"What's in it for me?/Fine/Then I'll agree". They don't make the most sense, but with Olaf coming in to compliment his sister's goofy lyrics with words that are even worse, the sound remains a plus. Don't let this get you down though, their next superior single gets the release treatment too. On Like a Pen
the introduction is extended with silence being the main theme before it gets rolling, but when it does it doesn't stop. What sounds like fast paced water droplets being joined by a common drum beat is whats happening until the keys make themselves heard, water still dropping. "Sharpen my body like a pen/Come on I need to show it/Something too small for a lense/If I rub it if I wipe it"
. Oh Karin your swanky sounding words joined with the repeating keyboard part gives us something to move to. The chorus moves quickly, existing with keyboards being the main topping of it, hi hat work being the base as it sounds like Karin blowing "ohhohhhhs" into the mic, classy.
The music is dark and intriguing, just like the band (http://www.energylab.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2006/04/knife.jpg) and their surrounding atmosphere/ That picture pretty much sums it up, the area surrounded by dark and snow, with only the two members as your guide. Occasional spots of light flood the area ("From Off To On"
, "F as in Knife
") but for the most part it is atmospheric and dark, just like is is meant to be.
F as In Knife (pop)
Like a Pen (smexy)
Marble House (atmospheric)