When Swedish electronica duo THE KNIFE announced its comeback earlier this year the buzz and aticipation this announcement created was pretty overhelming. Probably only DAVID BOWIE‘s comeback album played in the same hype league. The question is what you expect from their first studioalbum in seven years (leaving their inconvenient 2010 opera project Tomorrow In A Year aside)? Extraordinary, mysterious and overwhelming music? Yes, probably exactly this. And of course do the Swedish siblings satisfy this criteria with their new record Shaking The Habitual. But what exactly did we expect to find on this record – all of us that we were longing so desperately for new sounds by these two? A revelation or a revolution? Listening to the new THE KNIFE record can be quite fascinating and frustrating at the same time, depending on your point of view. But although Shaking The Habitual is extraordinary, mysterious and overwhelming as all the other THE KNIFE longplayers, it sets itself apart from the rest.
“After a year, we had some material that was pretty different from THE KNIFE. At first we talked about releasing this under another name. Then we thought it’s actually more funny to call it THE KNIFE,” said Olof Dreijer- one half of the band- in an interview with The Guardian. Admittedly Shaking The Habitual is different from the duo’s previous output but in no way funny. The record is much darker and impenetrable then Olod Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson’s previous works. You can even say that the album frightens the listener – while experiencing it three feelings arise: distraction, fear and excessive demand. Shaking The Habitual consists of thirteen tracks and is almost one hundred minutes long. One hundred minutes of abnormality. This is no continuation of 2006’s Silent Shout which had at least some form of continuity. You won’t find nothing like this here. It’s creative chaos.
This abnormality already starts when you look at the duration of the tracks: the longest, Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized, lasts ninteen minutes and twentytwo seconds and the shortest, Oryx, takes only thirtyseven seconds. And then the album begins with the fractious A Tooth For An Eye in which Karin Dreijer Anderssons carries aching tunes for to long – capacity overload for your head. As if Karin suffers – supported by tropical beats. But all in all it is one of the more typical THE KNIFE on the album. Others include the technoid eleven minute long Stay Out Here, a collaboration with Shannon Funchess from LIGHT ASYLUM. The whole longplayer feels like an exertion for your mind. Just take Shaking The Habitual’s first single Full Of Fire – almost too many spacy electro tunes and Karin’s eerie voice. You can’t even find a real chorus in it. To carry it to extremes there are the two instrumental tracks Crake and Oryx which you can hardly call music in a traditional way? And don’t forget the nineteen minutes long Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized – and endless and clearly a bit too long string of spheric ambient sounds that seem to have no ending. One thing we clearly miss here – and on many parts of the album – is Karin’s unique voice who seems to be less used than on the older records. Kind of sad for Mrs. FEVER RAY.
The bizarre Shaking The Habitual is a quite difficult record, in both – negative like positive way. It challenges the listener and all fans of previous THE KNIFE records. It’s against the habits of pop – and maybe even the concept of a longplayer with all the incoherence in the songs. They quite often feel more like sketches and concepts than songs in a traditional way. A continuation of the deconstruction of whatever THE KNIFE once were and what you thought they might have been. All in all it’s probably a bit to over-ambitious, simply too much for your ear, head and mind. We all know that THE KNIFE have a liability to extremes – which makes it quite hard to cope with this album. A challenging overkill we might never fully understand until a bit of time has passed. Or maybe never? It’s a very individual decision this time.
Stream the entire album now over at Pitchfork Advance.