The Knife - Shaken Up Versions
The Swedish electronicists' Shaking the Habitual remix album is their best record since Silent Shout
One listener’s subversive visionary is another’s wilful contrarian, and so it goes for the Knife. A remix album? These Swedish enigmas of esoteric electronica would never turn in something so mundane, and instead offer us Shaken Up Versions – a ‘mini album of classic tracks reworked especially for the band’s recent North American leg of their Shaking The Habitual Tour’. Which, let’s face it, just means a remix album sans any external remixers, put out to help punt some live dates.
Supported by a strongly Marmite-smelling performance art concert experience, Shaking The Habitual last year prompted one of the biggest critical circle-jerks in recent memory. Of the countless reviewers who awarded that record full-marks, you have to wonder how many kept it on their music players for long afterwards. By god is it hard work – easy to admire, much tougher to live with.
Here, what the Knife’s sibling members Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer call a ‘mini-album’ proves about the same length (eight tracks, around 45 minutes total) as what everyone else calls ‘an album’, though at roughly half the length of Shaking The Habitual, it still feels economical. With a tracklisting drawing from each of their four albums to date, the scope is wide, but the vision focused. Out: Foucault quotes and detuned zither drones, in: slamming beats backlit by doomy soundscapes.
Just the individual sounds used by the Knife set them far apart from so many of their contemporaries: the trouser-shaking detuned electronic toms and warped vocal drones on ‘We Share Our Mother’s Health’, or the frantic tribal drumming and rave-in-a-haunted-house synth wails on ‘Bird’. The muscular ‘Without You My Life Would Be Boring’ sounds like it’s been through boot camp since its Shaking The Habitual incarnation, and alone encapsulates much of the fabulous contradiction at the Knife’s core – music at once extravagantly joyous and dead-eyed terrifying. This is their best record since Silent Shout.