Although The Knife is no longer around to treat us with their inspiring blend of techno beats, intriguing synth loops, and Karin Dreijer Andersson’s vocals, news has arrived that The Knife is releasing a package containing both a live shot film, an album, and a photobook. Due for Release 1 September via Rabid Records is The Knife’s “Shaking the Habitual: Live at Terminal 5” film, album & photobook. After a 7-year hiatus from playing live, the resulting musical saw The Knife expand from Karin and Olof to a 11-piece dance troupe.
There are many jewels in the The Knife’s back catalog and their fresh take on beats and composition, paired with Karin’s distinct take on the vocals still makes it worthwhile to re-visit their legacy and explore this new release from a band that disbanded back in 2014. One key ingredient that still is noteworthy is how the band in their early material used samples from the Microsoft OS sound bank to be incorporated into their recordings.
In relation to their new release the band employed designer Bella Rune to create bespoke instruments for the show, aiming to give the audience something more interesting to look at than a figure turning knobs and pressing buttons behind a laptop. On the last leg of the tour, in the autumn of 2014, photographer Alexa Vachon joined The Knife to document their journey. These photos have been collected in a limited-edition photobook. Below is the trailer:
Seven years after 2006’s Silent Shout album Shaking the Habitual appeared. The Knife, though, found themselves in the very privileged position of having a hungry and patient audience, thanks in part to the solo work of Karin as Fever Ray, whose 2009 album more than plugged the gap between Knife releases, and built fevered expectations for this one. At its most compelling, Shaking the Habitual was racked with lust, anger and urgent, quaking rhythms. Often, even the melodies are percussive. Networking features a sound like knucklebones being fast-forwarded across the floor, while the opening one-two of A Tooth for an Eye and Full of Fire are treatises that crack along on the cusp between threat and euphoria.
For Shaking The Habitual to be a truly effective political statement, the Knife felt it was important that the music reflected the same anger as the lyrics, rather than relying on more traditional songwriting to act as a Trojan horse for sneaking in the odd subversive idea. Unquestionably, it’s a challenging listen at times, but the band won’t lose any sleep worrying about what people who came to the band through Heartbeats might make of a 10-minute industrial noise track called Fracking Fluid Injection.
Rhythms have always been a key ingredient and Silent Shout is probably their greatest success. The opening track ‘Silent Shout’ with a single bassline lays the foundation for some deep synths, which build and build with a profound vocal layered over the top. A similar darkness continues through the album with more excursions into noir synth pop, with tracks like ‘Neverland’ and ‘F As In Knife’. Karin was quoted as saying ‘Silent Shout – its like when you dream and really want to scream something, nothing comes out’. ‘Silent Shout’ definitely screams loneliness and obscure inner visions but optimism exists.
In a recent interview The Knife explored this further:
So your medium shifted: you’d used immediate software to make pop music, and then you chose more specialist analog instruments to make Silent Shout, which wasn’t so poppy.
KARIN: I think when you work with a material that requires more time to get into, like an analog physical machine, it makes it possible to make music that requires more time to get into. So I can imagine that that had an impact on what kind of music we made.
OLOF: We were fortunate enough to be able to start releasing music at a time when we weren’t so great at producing. We learned a lot about making songs along the way. So for Silent Shout it was a learning process. It was simple stuff—classic techno machines like synthesisers and drum machines—and a lot of trial and error. It wasn’t like we had this super clear idea. There was an idea, but we kept on trying different kinds of sounds and combinations.
As mentioned The Knife split up in November 2014 after releasing their 2013 album Shaking the “Habitual” and completing its attendant tour. The Knife played their final show, entitled “Post-Colonial Gender Politics Come First, Music Comes Second”, on November 8, 2014 at the Iceland Airwaves Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland. While they have never been a major commercial act, the Knife’s four studio albums made them one of the most influential artists of the new millennium. José Gonzalez’s cover of Heartbeats, from the Knife’s 2003 opus Deep Cuts, reached No 9 on the British singles chart. The cover was also used by Sony in a commercial for BRAVIA television sets, and released as a single in 2006. The group commented on this in a news article, claiming that Sony paid a large sum of money to use the song. Despite the group’s anti-commercial views, they justified the transaction by citing their need for money to establish a record company.
The duo talked about Shaking the Habitual back in January 2016 stating:
Shaking the Habitual was a new sound for The Knife, but it seemed that you wanted to convey your message in a different way as well.
OLOF: Quite a big difference with the Silent Shout time was we only dealt with the political subjects in theory, we didn’t really practice anything.
KARIN: With Silent Shout we had all these political ideas and feminist ideas, but we were working with them in [only] music. A big, important difference is that, after that, we tried to infiltrate every part of our work with these ideas. For Shaking the Habitual we tried to work with an all female crew, and we really tried hard to find a female mastering engineer, female music technicians, and female video directors.
OLOF: I mean, we didn’t even think about it at the time of Silent Shout and Deep Cuts—so all our video directors were male, and we didn’t think about representation in any way. It’s a learning process, and we’ve learned to deprogram the things we have learned from hierarchical society.
It sounds like you became more aware of your privilege and the fact that you were in a position to do something about it. Silent Shout was a little abstract, but with Shaking the Habitual there was no mistaking what you believed in.
KARIN: When you get the opportunity to tour and you get the ability to speak in the media, it also gives you also a responsibility. I mean, it gives you power—and I think there are many, many artists who don’t want to acknowledge that. And if you are a feminist artist, I don’t see why you shouldn’t adopt your ideas into your practice. I find that since we’ve been doing this in the Shaking the Habitual project, I am very interested in artists who put their ideas into practice. And not only like a secret, not only in theory. Like, having political lyrics.
In the duo’s final interview, Karin told Dazed, “We don’t have any obligations to continue, it should only and always be for fun.
The new album won’t be available to buy or stream in the following territories UK/Eire, USA/Canada, Asia & South/Latin America. This is due to a long running dispute between the band and its label partner in those territories, Brille Records.