Shaking the Habitual
Apr 05, 2013 Issue #45 - Winter 2013 - Phoenix
News flash: If The Knife doesn't freak you out, you're not listening hard enough. Swedish siblings Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson's first album since 2006's Silent Shout is 13 tracks, clocking in at an impressive 90 minutes, and they're not out to win any new fans. The majority of Shaking the Habitual's running time is interwoven with industrial streaks, otherworldly tones, and haunting tonal experiments. This is not totally unexpected. Theirs is the place where things go bump in the night—a place where the dark side of politics and dance music meet. Easy listening this ain't.
"Full of Fire," the album's second track, is nine minutes of slow-building, polyrhythmic beats; warping audio fields; and Andersson's guttural groan. "Who looks after my story?" she asks with a primordial intensity. (Memo to José González: dare you to cover this one.) It's one of the many boiling points in an album built to fly in the face of consumerism, capitalism, and male-dominated hierarchy.
Perhaps more surprising than Shaking the Habitual's strident political stance is how much of its running time is created via non-electronic instruments. The synths still slither across nearly every song, but mixed in is a wealth of less obvious sound sources—most notably in "A Cherry on Top," which uses an eerie, atonal scale to create a ghostly, percussion-free, Japanese-inspired love song. The theme is carried over into the next track, percussion-heavy "Without You My Life Would Be Boring," which derives its tribal hedonism exclusively from the percussive elements, whistles, and Andersson's elastic vocals. Andersson's voice is unrivaled in its sheer flexibility, but likeminded singer Shannon Funchess of Light Asylum gives it a go, matching her howl for howl on dark dance/feminist classic in the making, "Stay Out Here."
Ultimately though, this is The Knife's show—and we're not allowed to forget that. With most artists, choices such as including a 19-minute ambient piece (see "Old Dreams Waiting to be Realized") anywhere would be questionable, let alone at the album's apex—but The Knife has trained us to go along for the ride. Hold on tight. (www.theknife.net)
Author rating: 8.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10