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Music / The Knife

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In a dream, all my teeth fell out: a cracked smile and a silent shout.

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Imagine what you'd hear if David Lynch's films could sing you to sleep before they sell your soul to the devil in the nicest possible way, and you've got an idea of what The Knife is like.

The Knife were an electronic music duo from Sweden, comprised of siblings Karin and Olof Dreijer.note 

The group formed in 1999, originally embracing lighter shades of electropop on their modestly acclaimed but widely unnoticed first two releases, and rising to public attention when Jose Gonzalez's cover of their song "Heartbeats" was used in a Sony Bravia TV commercial (the one with all the bouncy balls).

It wasn't until 2006, with the release of the notably darker-sounding Silent Shout, that they saw widespread success and established their most popular sound: a brooding, ethereal, and creepily bizarre take on Synth-Pop, with telltale characteristics including cold synths, tribal percussion, and the duo's famous androgynous, pitch-shifted vocals.

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They would, however, tinker with considerably more experimental sounds on their next two projects before officially disbanding in 2014 following the completion of the tour promoting their final album, Shaking the Habitual. Considering how varied their list of influences to the right is, their sonic eclecticism should come as no surprise.

They were also noteworthy for their rare interactions with the media and mainstream music scene, which led to multiple no-shows or boycotts of the Swedish equivalent to the Grammy Awards, and waiting 7 years to begin performing live. While many attributed this to the Reclusive Artist act, the duo themselves stated that they weren't averse to press attention, but disliked some outlets trying to infringe on their personal lives. The few promotional images of them usually show them wearing Venetian plague doctor masks, or dressing as monkeys.

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Both Karin and Olof have made names for themselves in solo ventures. Karin has earned the lion's share of public attention for their work under the name Fever Ray, as well as a number of features under their real name, while Olof has built a small discography as Oni Ayhun, and also DJs in European nightclubs as DJ Coolof.


Discography:

  • The Knife (2001)
  • Deep Cuts (2003)
  • Silent Shout (2006)
  • Tomorrow in a Year (2010): A concept opera based on Charles Darwin's Origins of the Species in collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock.
  • Shaking the Habitual (2013)

The Knife provides examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: The image quote above from the Title Track of Silent Shout.
  • Animated Music Video: We Share Our Mother's Health primarily, though many of their music videos feature animation at some point.
  • Author Tract: Shaking the Habitual is largely inspired by the band's views on feminism, economics, and the environment. The packaging even has a satirical comic about the UN planning to end extreme wealth.
  • Band of Relatives: Olof and Karin are siblings.
  • Epic Rocking: A fair share of the tracks on Shaking the Habitual veer towards or over 10 minutes, but the very longest is Old Dreams Waiting to be Realized, a 20 minute epic consisting of little else than eerie ambient noise.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Karin belts out several in "A Tooth for an Eye".
  • Jump Scare: "Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized" largely consists of 19 minutes of extremely spooky ambient noise... except for one very loud spasm of electric noise halfway through. Not the sort of track you'd want to turn on while being home alone.
  • Larynx Dissonance: Olaf does NOT sing at all on the entire Silent Shout - those deep, creepy tones are Karin (with the help of a little pitch-shifting).
  • New Sound Album: Certainly the difference between the relatively upbeat Deep Cuts and the Darker and Edgier Silent Shout is a heavy case of musical Mood Whiplash.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Karin's voice can make relatively benign lyrics utterly terrifying.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Sort of. In a rare interview, Karin admitted to having written a large part of the Fever Ray album while they were awake at night, tending to their newborn. Given the sometimes creepy content and tone of the songs, many thought this meant that they were writing in response to their experiences raising a child, rather than the simple fact that they were awake because of the child, and chose to write at that time.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Like A Pen certainly sounds it, amongst others.
  • Surreal Music Video: A particular favourite, especially for the songs from Silent Shout.
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