Sunday, March 17, 2013

Artist of the Day: The Knife

A lot has changed since Swedish electronic duo the Knife put out their seminal third album Silent Shout in early 2006. Burial reinvented eerie minimalism, Skrillex won two Oscars, and James Murphy put dance-punk and the entire decade to bed. Most notably, the moody synth-pop the Swedes so avidly and effectively championed became unimaginably trendy. And now, between the lightning-fast ascension-descension of MGMT and the floundering emptiness of chillwave, synth revival may have just run its course. But the Knife is back, there’s no denying that, and their absence has given their image time to grow to a heroic level. Sure, they wrote an opera, and vocalist Karin Andersson had some real success with her trip-hoppy side-project Fever Ray, but the people want the Knife! Well, the Knife is what they’ll get.

The first single from the group’s upcoming album Shaking the Habitual is a stormy, complex epic called “Full of Fire.” Every second of sound is soaked in percussion and whining, chattering synths like flocks of alien birds headed for warmer climes deep in the confines of your mind. It’s abrasive and unrelenting, and upon first listen it’s a perplexing choice for a single. Then, you realize that every snare hit, every clap, every reverberation in the sparkling landfill was placed with purpose. The song seems to defy the laws of pop by somehow managing to be so effortlessly rhythmic. Most indietronic bands would have been lost in smog of their own avant-ambitions, but for the Knife it feels natural.

That being said, their most recent single “A Tooth for an Eye,” is a great deal more palatable, and there’s nothing wrong with just wanting to dance to some quality house music. With the underpinning of a tenacious 4/4 bass-drum beat, the group execute seamless shifts from section to unique section, each as pleasing to the ear as the last. This is the Knife we’re familiar with, sparse, subtle, Andersson’s just-a-little-off-kilter vocals piercing the ambience, both chilling and sweet. The lyrical trends are here too, lingering on dream imagery, the surreal, or maybe just the nonsensical. Either way, it’s fun. Most importantly, though, it feels relevant.

Shaking the Habitual is due out April 8th or Rabid Records. Be sure not to miss it. 

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