The Knife keeps second album sharp
I'm a little late on this one, but I think I'd be doing you a great disservice if I didn't go back and review The Knife's sophomore effort, released back in June. This Swedish brother-and-sister duo has matured tremendously since the release of 2003's Deep Cuts, and Silent Shout is going to make a serious run at Album of the Year.
Before I started getting serious about listening to non-mainstream music, I was under the impression that there were two broad categories. “Energy music” is music with kinetic properties and steady rhythms that communicates motion to its listeners. Electronic dance music, heavy metal, punk rock, disco. “Listening music”, on the other hand, is music to be analyzed and interpreted, and is meant to affect the listener emotionally. Acoustic folk, classical music, jazz, rock ballads, avant-garde prog.
Silent Shout is a masterpiece of both sides of this dichotomy. It's dark, sexy dance music on one side, and relentlessly experimental and emotionally moving on the other. This is no IDM in the vein of Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, though — this is 4/4 pop with verse/chorus structure, which explains how The Knife has blown up in Sweden and the U.K. Instantly accessible, with more than enough depth for any fan of electronic music.
The eponymous opening track sets the tone. An aggressive house beat that sounds like you're hearing it through your ceiling pins down a dark synth that spits out the most inventive arpeggiations I've heard in dance music. Singer Karin Dreijer Andersson contributes two vocal melodies, and the louder of the two is pitch shifted down an octave. It quite honestly sounds like you're listening to the angry god of dance music's apocalyptic fanfare.
Andersson is pitch shifted in different ways on every track, and except through the slower more ambient pieces, it hides her incredible lyrics. “Forest Families” is a trance cut (with no bass drum, oddly enough) that tells a story of childhood escapism from the problems of cold war Sweden. Upon first listen, though, all you catch is the simple and uplifting chorus: “Music tonight/I just want your music tonight”.
This album also strikes the perfect balance between thematic unity and variation from song to song. No two tracks hinge on the same ideas, making for an excellent listen-through of the CD, but every track demonstrates their overall style and aesthetic. With other bands I often have to show someone two or three songs to give them the whole picture and hopefully hook them with part of it; with The Knife, all you need is one, and it can be any of them.
These guys absolutely need to cross the pond, so I'll do my part right here: The only reason you shouldn't own this CD is if you don't like electronic instrumentation. It's that simple.