Silent Shout (The Knife)

Posted: October 1, 2007 in creativity
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Normally I don’t write a second post on a group, but having listened to Silent Shout by The Knife a few times now, I can’t help but raving about it. The Knife and Deep Cuts (their previous albums) were great Indie Electropop, but what they’ve done with Silent Shout is simply awesome. They could have polished the pop hooks of those former albums even further, creating a sleek dance floor monster, but instead they made a number of choices that lifted them above the world of mediocrity and superficiality represented by most modern pop. First, following their same move from 2003, they did not to attend the Swedish Grammy Awards ceremonies in 2007 where they scooped up no less than six awards – I guess they were still protesting against male domination in the music industry. Second, they defied gravity and left the highway to mass adoration by creating Silent Shout.

the_knife-silent_shout-2006-fwyhAllmusic metaphorically compared Deep Cuts and Silent Shout with the “northern lights” vs. a “sunless, vast expanse of tundra”, which is spot on. Silent Shout certainly sounds more sinister, deranged and chilling yet mischievous, filling you with a yearning sense of unease. It’s not shocking, like a well-made horror movie – it rather has a floating darkness that draws you in. “This becomes already quite clear by opener and lead single, ‘Silent Shout’, which is built around a droning one-note bassline, a maddeningly random synth arpeggio blipping all over the place and a choir of nightmarish pitch-shifted voices chanting about their teeth falling out.” At the same time, Karin Dreijer’s vocals are full of trickery, creating the overall effect of “a parade of insane guest vocalists detailing their messed up lives. It’s pop gone wrong, about people gone wrong.” [Rabid in Stylus]

There are more upbeat songs (”Neverland”, “One Hit” or “Marble House”) but they too seem to be focused on creating a certain bleak, sinister atmosphere and sustaining it. But again, despite the often creepy sound, there is also an immense beauty in this music. “One Hit” is quite playful and cartoonish but it’s not exactly funny, “Neverland” has a stabbing synth-brass riff running through it, and “Marble House”, apparently inspired by the classic French film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, embodies doomed romance with its gliding melody and brittle castanet rhythms. The mournful, icy synth noises that slowly expand at the beginning of “The Captain” are heartbreaking and, like in “Forest Families” and “Still Light”, have a hushed, eerie intensity. “From Off to On”, dealing with voyeurism and TV addicts, is similarly affecting, while never developing beyond tranquil, almost-whispered harmonies. On “Like a Pen,” Dreijer describes a character’s struggle with body issues with disturbing clarity: “Sharpen my body like a pen…something too small for a lens”; on “Na Na Na” Karin sounds like an alien diva, with her whimsical, detailed lyrics having a darker cast, offering glimpses of strange people in stranger situations, while “Still Light” closes things with a low, droning harmony and a childlike voice describing a patient staring at the ceiling of a hospital..

All up, Silent Shout is much darker and at the same time more ambitious than The Knife’s previous work; the album finds the Dreijers stretching their sonics and downplaying the overt poppiness of Deep Cuts and The Knife. It’s creative and inventive, and more striking than ever. It draws you into into a twisted little world, ornately strange and yet compelling. Right now I find myself returning to it again and again.

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