The Knife - Shaking The Habitual

A record with regal bearing
The Knife - Shaking The Habitual

From a mythic underworld crawls brother Olaf, blood and oil smeared, festooned with metal trinkets, the bounty of his wanderings. Meanwhile, in a faraway Asiatic kingdom, from beneath a canopy of stars and darting strings, the undulating serpentine voice of sister Karin, less woman, more animal totem carries far across the flying buttresses of a castle constructed of bone. Or something along those lines…

Opening single ‘Tooth For An Eye’ leads us into this uncompromising world relatively gently, despite a cavalcade of distorted vocals and percussion played on bicycle spokes. The six minutes of malevolence on the fierce ‘Full Of Fire’ is far murkier, an industrial puddle of Gollumesque vocals and twisted techno. ‘A Cherry On Top’, with its scabrous Banshees guitars and sinister shamisens, sounds not unlike the ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ harpists who covert soundwaves into weapons.

Strings are stretched and flutter like a levitating force on a backwards Lynchian loop. These pulses and polyrhythms may sound contemporary but ‘Old Dreams’ inhabits an ancient place of mists and sagas, which then mutates into nineteen minutes of colossal white noise and handclapping. Reminiscent of Reich or Ligeti’s ‘Atmosphères’ (2001: A Space Odyssey’s sinister soundtrack), pop it’s not. The contentious ecological subject matter of ‘Fracking Fluid Injection’ is dealt with by way of Tibetan throat singing, rusty saws and swooping eagles.

Solo work as Oni Ayhun and Fever Ray respectively has marked the siblings. Increasingly aggressive and overtly detuned, their individual styles have collided to create something elemental, immense and unsettling. Self-possessed and uncompromising, this is a record with regal bearing.

8/10

Words by ANNA WILSON

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