So opens last month’s press statement/manifesto from Swedish sibling duo The Knife, promoting the release of ‘Shaking The Habitual’, their first album in seven years, a couple of weeks ago. That’s probably the most – maybe even only – understandable comment in a long-winded treatise announcing the band’s vexations with politics, class systems, patriarchies and hyper-capitalism.
It was a difficult and confusing press release to get your head around, but at least it set the expectations for a difficult and confusing album to come. When you think of The Knife, judging by previous offerings like ‘Deep Cuts’ and ‘Silent Shout’, the “imagined things” you probably desire are likely to include their brand of slick, dark, gripping electronica. In that case, this album may disappoint and possibly even infuriate you.
In every sense, “Shaking The Habitual” is a struggle: it struggles against what it sees wrong with the world, it struggles against itself, and it’s a struggle to get through because of that. It’s cold, alienating, and, a lot of the time throughout its overly-long 100 minutes, inaccessible. This isn’t an album you enjoy; this is an album you withstand.
A Tooth For An Eye and Full of Fire open the record on good form: with their edgy beats, ambition and bristling energy, they feel as close to familiar as The Knife will ever let you get. Just when you think you have enough of the strange noises and sometimes annoying effects, Karin Andersson’s otherwordly vocals pull you back in. Raging Lung and Ready To Lose offer more of the same: The Knife – and Andersson in her Fever Ray guise – have produced far better work in the past, but at least these are recognisable and interesting tracks with a design and an identity.
The same cannot be said for the rambling, disconnected, and vocal-less soundscapes of the twenty-minute long Old Dreams Waiting To Die, the terribly-named Fracking Fluid Injection and A Cherry On Top. If you’ve ever wondered what a headache would sound like on record, these incessantly scratching, abrasive experiments in sound effects will inform you. Approach with caution.
Reviewing this album is difficult: even the few good tracks are only sub-par The Knife songs, while the others are just odd, meaningless collections of disjointed sound. Beyond that, there’s little to say: it’s hard to describe something that gives you so little to really care about. Music can be and has been a place to address political and philosophical beliefs, but, to do that, you need to engage listeners, and ‘Shaking The Habitual’ does not make that easy. Whatever message The Knife hoped to deliver feels lost; hopefully, next time, they shake the philosophy in favour of the music.