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The Mass Media

The Knife – Silent Shout (Rabid Records, 2006)

The Knife - Silent Shout (Rabid Records, 2006)

Sometimes, things are easier to define by what they aren’t, as opposed to what they are. The Knife might be one of those entities. The Knife is not really a band, though it has been self-releasing music since 1999. The Knife is not, in fact, a singular unit. It is comprised of brother and sister Olof Dreijer and Karen Dreijer Andersson. Though they often wear masks, sometimes resembling crows, sometimes horror movie villains, the players are not exaggerated cartoon figures (unlike some nu-metal bands). Finally, in person The Knife is a self-described “Audio Visual Experience,” and not just a concert.

Emerging from Stockholm, Sweden The Knife is a computer band in theory, and almost utterly unclassifiable in practice. Falling somewhere along the chain between electronica, industrial and the loosely defined “world” The Knife creates its own genre amid distorted vocals and detuned keyboards. At times Silent Shout, the duo’s third album, sounds like Sigur Ros, elsewhere it’s reminiscent of MIA. At no point is the album anything less than compelling.

Silent Shout opens with the throbbing bass beat of the title track, followed by staccato blips and beeps. Karen’s vocals come in suddenly and then disappear. She is half singing, half talking, and sounds totally androgynous due to the thick layers of distortion affecting her voice. The song is built layer upon layer and stops just short of being overwhelming. Over the last quarter of the song, the layers are slowly peeled away until only the solitary bass beat remains. At this point the listener is left feeling slightly spent and dizzied. And then she’ll probably skip back to the beginning to try and take it all in again.

Clearly, the varied sonic creations of Olof Dreijer are the centerpiece of The Knife. Each song features some different core beat or noise that makes everything tick. “The Captain” develops slowly as shrill high-end noises emerge from a muddled bass beat. “We Share Our Mothers’ Health” opens with dissonant trills before an almost hip-hop beat is laid down. “Forrest Families” begins sounding like something a traditional “techno” artist like Tiesto might make. It’s a credit to Olof that the songs don’t get repetitive, although Silent Shout’s compact 11-track length helps.

The key facet of The Knife’s music, the aspect that sets it apart from tired acts like She Wants Revenge, are the stories that exist beneath the sounds. The Knife’s lyrics are descriptive and poetic, sometimes serious, sometimes not. That the song “Neverland” sounds like something girls could dance to at the club is reinforced by the song’s theme, that of a girl “dancing for dollars and for a fancy man.” The lyrics to the song “Na Na Na” are almost totally impossible to decipher. Karen’s voice is made thin and drawn out to the point that it sounds like another created inorganically. Yet lines like, “I’ve got mace, pepper spay, And some shoes that runs faster than a rapist rapes What I need is chemical castrations, hope and Godspeed” are as witty and intricate as I’ve seen. The marriage of the music and the message is what makes The Knife special.

From the first note to the last, SilentShout will enthrall listeners, no matter your feelings on electronic music. The Knife is planning some rare live appearances stateside in the fall, and promise to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience for attendees. For those of us unable to go, Silent Shout provides an excellent tease.