Shaking the Habitual is the latest offering from Swedish synth-pop duo The Knife. It’s also their first studio album since releasing Silent Shout seven years ago, and it’s pretty crazy.
The Knife were never known for their commercial appeal and certainly not for their conformity to traditional rock/pop music conventions, and this album is no exception. In fact I’d hazard a guess in placing the work in the concept album pile – more art than music.
Extremely experimental, they throw in all sorts of tracks. From ambient atmospherics, to freaky techno dance, interludes and mesmerizing epics. The utter performance of their music can be felt throughout, creating a kind of babble of intense orchestral sounds and mixed rhythms. So epic and penetrating are many of the tracks that I had to under take the first listen in two sittings.
For me it almost felt like a soundtrack, with its grand 8-10 minute instrumentals laid along side a mix of Karin’s unique vocals and intricate beats, evoking imagery of a futuristic landscape where machines reign.
Track 6, “Crake”, is under a minute of what sounds like various wind instruments screeching and screaming at you. Indicating perhaps a break in scene. I say this because it is followed by the longest track on the album, the 20 min atmospheric instrumental “Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized”.
It may all feel a tad too post-modern, even for the hipster in me, but then again the album is meant to be political and challenge our ideas about music. In fact the band didn’t think they were going to make another album at all and spent much of their time in-between records seeking inspiration and something worthwhile to say.
According to the duo they also had the aim of sounds through non-traditional means, saying that they spent time “studying and working their way to the core of an instrument to find its potential. Like making a bed-spring sound like a voice or making a voice sound like a bed-spring”.
It all kind of sounds like if Peaches became a robot and teamed up with members of Bjork’s band, and in my opinion would work much better if it were the backing music for some kind performance piece accompanied by puppets and ominous lighting that acted out the perils of modern society. But that’s just me.
Post-modern, expressionist, and at time minimalistic, Shaking the Habitual is not for the faint hearted but is, however, a somewhat artistic endeavor through breaking conventions and pushing the boundary of what music is and can be.