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Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Knife - Shaking The Habitual

To fully digest a record takes multiple listens. An ambitious and complex 100-minute album complicates this to no end.

And, with 13 tracks – ranging from the 37 second Onyx to the 19 minute ambient centrepiece Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized – the fourth album from Swedish electronic duo The Knife is a bold statement, and one that deserves more than snap judgements. Unfortunately, with its complicity and its intimidating length, it will live or die by such first impressions. So here we go.

First single Full of Fire is a good place to start, as it is the album at its best. A nine minute storm of beats, bangs and bleeps; not a second of it feels overbearing or unnecessary.

Almost inevitably though, that can’t be said of the whole record. Songs such as A Cherry on Top and the aforementioned Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized disturb and linger with their chilling mood and brooding tones, but they also test the patience, the latter becoming something of an anchor threatening to drown the whole listening experience.

However, the relentless jungle percussion of Without You My Life Would Be Boring and the slow stomp of Wrap Your Arms Around Me, as well as the glitchy twitch of Networking and the punchy buzz of Stay Out Here in the record’s second half, are more than enough to drag the listener through and leave them at the other end smiling.

Lyrically the album comes and goes, with some lines intentionally obscured and others brought to the fore, but when they land, they are provocative and indicative of the intellectual background of the band.

Despite its length, this isn’t a record that outstays its welcome, even if a few tracks may have you reaching for the next button. However, as confounding as it all sounds at first, the multiple listens which at once seemed daunting will soon become compulsory, as this compelling beast infects and controls. Give its near 100 minutes a chance, and Shaking The Habitual just might take you too.

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