The Knife, 'Silent Shout'

The Clash Essential 50 counts down the greatest albums of the last five years, i.e. the lifetime of Clash.

Over the past three weeks, has featured articles focusing on every one of our selected albums, revisiting these classics of our time for timely reappraisals.

Now we’re into the top five, with our number one album revealed on Friday, April 24. Be there, or be dead to us. Got an excuse? CLICK HERE.


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The Knife, ‘Silent Shout’
(2006; Rabid)

Although they’d enjoyed some success in their native Sweden prior to reaching British ears, brother-sister duo The Knife first became a name outside of Scandinavia via association with fellow Swede José Gonzáles, who covered their ‘Heartbeats’ song in 2003 and saw it breach the UK top ten three years later.

In between loaning out said song and seeing it cross over into the mainstream like they’d never managed – The Knife’s original didn’t make a mark on charts home or abroad – Karin Dreijer Andersson and brother Olof crafted their ultimate magnum opus, an album that took dance music into strange new worlds of alien songwriting and surreal lyrical imagery, while all the while resonating with a vulnerability that lent the whole an emotionally open feel. ‘Silent Shout’ is not an immediate-of-impression record, a classic from the first play and forever onwards; it takes time to reveal its myriad facets, each nuance increasing the level of detail spread across its eleven tracks, and inviting the listener deeper into the experience.

On the surface a skittering collection of percussively fidgety electro-pop, ‘Silent Shout’ made its immersive qualities clear after repeat visitations led to critical accolades off the scale, with a rash of high-score appraisals directing curious ears towards its almost child-like lyrical delivery – serious topics tackled with a playfulness straight out of an uncommonly eerie fairytale – and enchantingly oddball compositions, sometimes straight-faced of beat, at others seemingly all over the place at once, as if two songs were battling for speaker space. At times the pair’s music is deliciously sensual, the sounds rising up and caressing the listener into a state of utmost pleasure; when it bites, though, the effect on the motor neurons is absolute and immediate.

Once in the system, ‘Silent Shout’ is the sort of album that’s impossible to shake. Now, three years after its release, it remains every bit as beguiling as it seemed during those first, second and third listens – you’ll probably need to go around that many times for its multiple personalities to align, creating a whole that the senses can focus on without losing their metaphysical footing. As the songs pass, rarely does one inform the next – the incessancy of ‘Neverland’ sits at odds with the sublime soothe-scape of ‘The Captian’, while standout singles ‘We Share Our Mothers’ Helth’ and ‘Like A Pen’ get nowhere close to telling the album’s story in short-play form; both are splendid dancefloor fare, but one mustn’t assume that their parent LP is designed solely for consumption in such an environment.

Actually discovering the perfect place to experience ‘Silent Shout’ may be impossible, but it’s certainly a pleasurable quest – night-time transatlantic flights under a thick blanket, lost in a forest far from home, bedrooms with the lights dulled and the smell of autumn drifting in through a cracked window. Regarding live adaptation, its makers haven’t exactly made such a rendering a simple procedure, as made evident by the 2007 DVD release of ‘Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience’. With multiple projections, disorientating light patterns and each player appearing only in shadows, draped in black attire and their faces masked, The Knife’s unique shows are few and far between to say the least.

But even if you’re never able to see the pair in the flesh, ‘Silent Shout’ ensures The Knife’s singular take on what’s ostensibly dance but, when explored deeper, actually a wonderfully multifarious masterpiece that’ll maybe never be fully understood will always find a appreciative audience. All anyone can do, if they’ve a mind open enough to accommodate such experimentation that encompasses many a field, is sit back and try to take as much of it in as possible.

Close your eyes and sink into its supremely realised balancing of comforting warms and icy chills, subversive genre eschewing and new-niche manifestation, ‘til the sounds lap around your ears and paint rainbows across the darkly blank vista before you – and if, after all, you feel nothing, you quite probably have no soul.

The Knife – ‘Like A Pen’

The Knife – ‘We Share Our Mothers’ Health’

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Bonus interview: Karin Dreijer Andersson speaks to Clash…

How do you view ‘Silent Shout’ in relation to its predecessor, ‘Deep Cuts’?
I think it’s like miles and miles and miles apart. When we started the first album we didn’t know how to use the computer, how to record things. But we got very into the production part working as The Knife. I think on ‘Silent Shout’, the tracks are as much about production as they are about songs.

It took seven years for the band to eventually perform live. Was there a point where you thought that it was never going to happen?
When we started we said it was never going to happen. So, I guess it was Andreas Nilsson [Swedish video director and artist] who talked us into it. He had this idea about how to do it live, to do more of an art performance and to work with visuals in a way that made Olof and I more part of a film or theatre play. I think that made it possible for us.

What’s been the most surprising thing about The Knife for you as a project?
When you’ve been doing this for quite a long time I think the best thing about it is the moments in the studio when you’ve come up with a new idea - the first time you try a song, when you try to play something in it and it sounds good, I think that’s when you realise why you’re still in the project.

Will The Knife be doing anything else?
We’re currently working on an opera about Charles Darwin. It will premiere in September in Copenhagen.

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The Clash Essential 50 so far…

50: The Killers, ‘Hot Fuss’
49: Kasabian, ‘Kasabian’
48: Deerhunter, ‘Microcastle’
47: Bat For Lashes, ‘Fur and Gold’
46: Vampire Weekend, ‘Vampire Weekend’
45: MGMT, ‘Oracular Spectacular’
44: Portishead, ‘Third’
43: Elbow, ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’
42: Amy Winehouse, ‘Back To Black’
41: Santigold, ‘Santigold’
40: Late Of The Pier, ‘Fantasy Black Channel’
39: Sigur Rós, ‘Takk…’
38: Efterklang, ‘Parades’
37: Liars, ‘Drum’s Not Dead’
36: The White Stripes, ‘Get Behind Me Satan’
35: Hot Chip, ‘The Warning’
34: Fleet Foxes, ‘Fleet Foxes’
33: Benga, ‘Diary Of An Afro Warrior’
32: Feist, ‘The Reminder’
31: Broadcast, ‘Tender Buttons’
30: Battles, ‘Mirrored’
29: Klaxons, ‘Myths Of The Near Future’
28: Tunng, ‘Mother’s Daughter And Other Songs’
27: The Libertines, ‘The Libertines’
26: Kanye West, ‘The College Dropout’
25: Apparat, ‘Walls’
24: Burial, ‘Burial’
23: Gallows, ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’
22: Caribou, ‘The Milk Of Human Kindness’
21: Broken Social Scene, ‘Broken Social Scene’
20: Sufjan Stevens, ‘Illinois’
19: Soulwax, ‘Nite Versions’
18: The Bug, ‘London Zoo’
17: Brian Wilson, ‘SMiLE’
16: Isolée, ‘We Are Monster’
15: My Morning Jacket, ‘Z’
14: Franz Ferdinand, ‘Franz Ferdinand’
13: Joanna Newsom, ‘Ys’
12: Modeselektor, ‘Hello Mom!’
11: Bloc Party, ‘Silent Alarm’
10: Animal Collective, 'Merriweather Post Pavilion'
9: J Dilla, ‘Donuts’
8: Arctic Monkeys, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’
7: M.I.A., ‘Arular’
6: LCD Soundsystem, ‘LCD Soundsystem’

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