The Knife
Silent Shout
2006
A



the increase in the Knife's profile came at an odd time: by the time people outside their native Sweden had started to notice them based on one or two nifty remixes and Jose Gonzales' mumbly acoustic reworking of "Heartbeats," they'd already long since finished with the album that spawned it, 2003's Deep Cuts, and begun work on its successor. While "Heartbeats" was far from the only song that showed they can write a mean pop hook when they want to, it was still something of an anomaly on an album that was for the most part a lot more, y'know, batshit insane. What they've done with Silent Shout, rather than polish those pop hooks into a sleek dancefloor monster to bring them the worldwide adulation they deserve, is take all the sinister, deranged excesses of Deep Cuts and use them as the overriding theme. Meanwhile the world at large backs away slowly, muttering "I dunno man, I prefer that Rex The Dog thing" and the natural order is restored.

Shiny electropop is not exactly the order of the day here, then. This is made abundantly 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. The vocal trickery they've previously used on Karin's voice has become pretty much the standard operating procedure; while she does occasionally show off her unadorned vocal chops, more often than not there's no default setting, the overall effect resembling a parade of insane guest vocalists detailing their messed up lives. It's pop gone wrong, about people gone wrong.

The more upbeat songs certainly have some memorable moments—the stabbing synth-brass riff running through "Neverland," the not-quite-funny-ha-ha narrative of "One Hit" ("spend time with my family—like the COR-LEE-OOOOO-NEEES") and the genius marble-clicking noise in “Marble House”—but overall they seem more focused on creating this bleak, sinister atmosphere and sustaining it at all costs. Similarly to the unsettling effect of a V/Vm remix, the crucial thing is not just that it sounds fucked up, but that there's still a recognisable trace of what it was "supposed" to have been before it went Wrong, like a faint glimmer of recognition in the eyes of a loved one recently raised from the dead.

While their sound has become immensely creepier, it has also improbably become more beautiful. The plaintive, icy synth noises that slowly stretch out at the beginning of "The Captain" are heartbreaking, and "From Off to On" is similarly affecting, never developing beyond tranquil, almost-whispered harmonies. (Enya might sound like this is if she was a junkie recluse.) "Still Light" closes things with a low, droning harmony and a childlike voice describing a patient staring at the ceiling of a hospital. About two thirds of the way through, after the frail protagonist has yelped "is it still light outside?", there's this falling-into-place moment as you realise that it's going to be the last line of the album and it's just going to gently drift into unconsciousness from there.

Hardly the most immediate thing they've done, I have no idea if I'll still listen to this regularly in six months. I'm not even always sure if I strictly enjoyit. But while it lasts Silent Shout draws you completely into the twisted little world it's created, and in that sense it's one of the most compellingly, ornately strange things I've heard in a long time.

STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM RECOMMENDED ALBUM


Reviewed by: Fergal O’Reilly
Reviewed on: 2006-03-08
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