Dec 2013 23

The Knife - Shaking the HabitualThe Knife
Category: Electronic / Experimental
Album: Shaking the Habitual
Stars: 4
Blurb: A dense and challenging listen that lives up to its title, eschewing past formulas in favor of a truly experimental experience.


Brother/sister duo The Knife is one of the most fascinating and enigmatic bands in the electronic music scene today. Karin Dreijer-Andersson and Olof Dreijer defy convention at every turn, at first eschewing showing their faces and opting for masks. When the masks came to be too closely associated with them, they dropped them completely without any fanfare. They didn’t play live shows for years, and when they finally began to do them, they made sure to make it a distinct audio visual experience, complete with costumes, video, lights, actors, and projections. The Knife’s previous outing, 2006’s Silent Shout was a huge album with catchy, dance-friendly tracks; dark, but relatively familiar. Not to allow us to become too complacent, this year brings Shaking the Habitual, an album that is dense and challenging, and that seems to relish this fact as a marked departure from its predecessors. Those willing to put in the time and really take in the album as a whole will find that Shaking the Habitual is beautiful and refreshing, a desperately needed breath of fresh air in an environment that seems otherwise content to sacrifice artistry and experimentation for formula and accessibility.

The album kicks off with a song that serves as the ideal introduction – the mood and style is set from the first few bars of the song. “A Tooth for an Eye” is driven by tribal beats and melodic percussive instruments, and while it has a danceable beat, it’s not the sort that would get play in a club. Karin’s singing is looser and harsher, and the entire piece is more reminiscent of pagans at a drum circle than at a club full of fog machines and black lights. The warm, loose feel draws a sharp contrast to anything from the digital icy darkness of Silent Shout. “Without You My Life Would be Boring” and “Raging Lung” also lead with a distinct tribal feel. It’s interesting to see a band that has been so dependent on synths and catchy keyboard melodies instead build songs based around percussion and organic instruments, the prevalence of which, in fact, cannot be understated. Songs like “A Cherry on Top” blend light synths with a haunting, slightly out of tune guitar and scraping mechanical sounds. Add in Karin’s pitched down yet oddly lilting vocals (five minutes in), and the piece feels like a nursery rhyme that an ogre would use to soothe its terrible child.

One aspect of the songwriting that can make Shaking the Habitual feel challenging is the loose, jam-inspired songs. Quite a few of the songs don’t really have distinct parts – one won’t find the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus style structure here. Instead, songs drone on; they morph and evolve and change a little bit at a time. It feels very organic, and usually it’ll be a surprise when you realize a song has been playing for nearly 10 minutes. That said, songs like “Fracking Fluid Injection” run a little too long without going anywhere in particular. When most of the songs are going to be nearly 10 minutes in length, maintaining interest is always going to be a challenge. The flip side to that is the bizarre tracks “Crake” and “Oryx,” which run for less than a minute each and seem to be noisy sound design pieces.

One final detail of note is Karin’s vocal styling on this album. Without a doubt, Shaking the Habitual contains her most varied work to date. In addition to the gender-bending pitch shifting that has become a staple of her vocals, there are screams and whispers throughout the album. Vocals are distorted to the point of unintelligibility, and then abruptly switched up in the next song. It never feels dull. The lyrics are subtle and nuanced as always, and it won’t be easy to draw a conclusion about the subject of a song upon the first listen… or second, third, or fourth, for that matter.

Shaking the Habitual is probably one of the best releases of 2013. It is the logical extension of a band that refuses to be pigeonholed or tied down to a one or two word genre. It’s not an easy listen – it’s like the electronic music equivalent of a James Joyce novel. It’s an album of contradictions. There’s a lot of beauty in it, and it’s a great work, but that doesn’t necessarily make it something people are going to pick up and read for fun. It’s twisted and vague, but putting in the time pays off. It’s not perfect, but it’s fresh and new. Get outside your comfort zone and try something new.
Track list:

  1. A Tooth for an Eye
  2. Full of Fire
  3. A Cherry on Top
  4. Without You My Life Would be Boring
  5. Wrap Your Arms Around Me
  6. Crake
  7. Raging Lung
  8. Networking
  9. Oryx
  10. Stay Out Here
  11. Fracking Fluid Injection
  12. Ready to Lose

The Knife Website
The Knife MySpace
The Knife Facebook
The Knife Twitter
Mute Records Website
Mute Records MySpace
Mute Records Facebook
Mute Records USA Twitter
Mute Records UK Twitter
Rabid Records Website
Purchase at:
Amazon CD (Standard Edition)
Amazon CD (Deluxe Edition)
Amazon MP3
Amazon Vinyl
Donald Beach (DXNero)

Leave a Comment


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!