Category: Electronic / Experimental
Album: Shaken-Up Versions
Blurb: The follow-up EP to Shaking the Habitual maintains the creative spark of its predecessor, but fails to maintain the balance of catchiness and experimentation that made it so appealing.
With the news earlier this year that The Knife would be “winding down” after finishing the tour for Shaking the Habitual, it seems unlikely that fans will be hearing any music from the sibling duo in the foreseeable future. For now, Shaken-Up Versions may well be the act’s final release. Comprised of total re-imaginings of songs from the back catalog, this EP serves as a solid final release from the Swedish band. Familiar songs have been made wholly unfamiliar, and the arrangements throughout have a more organic, acoustic feeling. However, Shaken-Up Versions is very much in the same vein as Shaking the Habitual, so those who did not enjoy the experimental acoustic styling will not get much out of this release. There are a lot of good tracks and ideas on this EP, but a few problems hinder it from becoming a truly great release.
The EP kicks off with “We Share Our Mother’s Health,” albeit a version that trades the plastic, digital tones of the original for handclaps, an expanded drum section, and lots of warm sounding synths. The difference is impressive – the song is instantly recognizable and but wholly different. This trend continues throughout the EP with varying levels of success. The re-envisioning of “Pass This On” is almost as good as the version that was on the live album Silent Shout: An Audiovisual Experience, and “Silent Shout” itself translates to this new style surprisingly well. Some of the songs fall short, however, because The Knife certainly has not been afraid to delve into cacophonous and sometimes unpleasant sound design on this album. Songs like “Bird” eventually devolve into noisy improvisational bits that drone on for some time without any real payoff, and can feel dull as a result. Shaking the Habitual toed the line with close to equal parts catchy and experimental songs, but Shaken-Up… fails to maintain this balance and suffers for it. Another annoying flaw is that four of the eight songs start out with nearly identical drumbeats. They all go in different directions so the similarity ends there, but it feels a little unimaginative for an album otherwise focused on experimentation.
Songs from Shaking the Habitual have not been left out on this album, and three tracks come back as “Shaken-Up” versions of themselves. This is a nice touch that helps tie the whole EP together – it feels more like its own entity than an extension of Shaking the Habitual because even the newest material is changed into something new and different. “Ready to Lose” undergoes the most radical rearrangement, and replaces the handclaps of the original with drumming more akin to “Wrap Your Arms Around Me.” In some places, it doesn’t even feel like the same song as the tone has been totally changed and the whole piece has a very different feel.
Overall, the album is worth getting if you’re a fan of The Knife, and the last album in particular. It suffers a bit from overly long, experimental sections at times, but the bulk of the album is a lot of fun to listen to. The fact of the matter is that those who did not like the experimental style of Shaking the Habitual aren’t going to like Shaken-Up Versions either. The poppy, digital sounds of the first few albums are nowhere to be found. That doesn’t stop this from being a solid EP, but it’s certainly not going to be for everyone. In the end, it may not be the best note for The Knife to go out on, but at the very least, it isn’t ordinary.
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Rabid Records Website http://www.rabidrecords.com
Donald Beach (DXNero)