So hey, you like music? Pop hooks? Verse chorus verse a la Kurt Cobain and the history of pop music, or the kind of pop fodder you get on the radio? Then don't listen to the new album Shaking The Habitual by The Knife ... it represents the antithesis of that whole idea. That's what makes it so fantastic. It's no wonder The Knife took so long in their absence from releasing albums -- they were setting out to redefine everything: sound aesthetics, weirdness, electronic music and the whole notion of what an album can be. Shaking The Habitual is the follow up to the equally redefining Silent Shout released seven years ago.
LISTEN TO THE ALBUM WHILE YOU READ THIS REVIEW
Not since the halcyon days of Nine Inch Nails have I heard people dive so deeply into the sculpting of sound. Shaking The Habitual is as much about the sound experience as it is about listening to a song. The listening experience is a full-blown dive into what you can do if you know your way around a studio. These songs are less songs and more manic audio episodes.
If you remember Karin Dreijer Andersson's project Fever Ray, it took a dive into "weird" in the best way. It was pagan, scary and bridled with an ancient and earthy history, which was on full display in the video for the song "If I Had A Heart." Shaking The Habitual extends that vibe to infinity.
By all definitions, I'm using the word weird to describe something good: not normal (i.e. boring) as the band moves into creating an otherworldly realm where only The Knife makes sense and all other music sounds passe and contrived.
The very notion of electronic music gets rethought here, reconfigured and laid out different than its electronic predecessors. The whole notions of EDM, industrial, electro and experimental all sound like relics. This is the future.
As an album, this is really not a standard format album but instead a 96 minute journey (and some change). It goes fast ... I'll bet a lot of you who have listened to it turned around and listened to it again shortly after your first listen. It's immersive and saturating, moving back and forth from a structured song into a complete tangent, and moves back and forth seamlessly throughout the album.
"Full of Fire" is lively with burnt and electro-fried beats, Karin's voice drenched in finely honed distortion that sounds like a fading radio transmission. The keyboards squeak with unpredictable (but oh so interesting) intensity. The drum loops hold it all together, but are as varied as the keyboard modulation.