The Knife - Shaking the Habitual
98-minutes of new music from Swedish pioneers is a mighty piece of work
Dear God, where to start? How about with congratulations, not just for taking their time to get it right and unleashing a 98-minute double CD/triple vinyl monster upon us seven years after Silent Shout’s breakthrough success, but for grasping the opportunity with one of the year’s most keenly awaited releases to create something both truly dazzling and most likely utterly incomprehensible to those fans who dragged The Knife onto the dancefloor way back when.
To describe Shaking the Habitual as an experimental record is to grossly underplay it. There’s no sense of blind exploration or jammed-out half-ideas,: this is a piece of work entirely in possession of its form and method. It ghosts into life with ‘A Tooth For An Eye’, an upbeat clatter of what sound like steel drum sample effects and twinkling Chicago house dynamics, the voice of singer Karin Dreijer Andersson (you may otherwise know her as Fever Ray) used as an instrument in its own right, the meaning of her words slipping away amid those familiar stretched and heavily accented vowels.
On it ploughs into the lead release ‘Full of Fire’, its Tresor techno pound waylaid by what sounds like a ferocious experiment in glitch hip-hop; the oriental gothica of ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’; the otherworldly feedback whalesong of ‘Crake’; and the stunning 20-minute slowbuild of eerie sound effects into a machine crescendo that is ‘Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized’. There’s a breakneck, warehouse party pace to ‘Networking’ and ‘Stay Out Here’, while ‘Fracking Fluid Injection’ is probably the most resonant example of Andersson and her brother Olof Dreijer’s obvious joy in placing strange noises together to create something otherwise unknown.
It’s a mighty piece of work, albeit one which might turn fans of their previous records off as it reaches for a sublime which is far beyond the remit of all contemporary musicians of their stature. But The Knife are pioneers, and the thing about pioneers is, it takes a while for everyone else to catch up.