The Knife – Shaking The Habitual (album) (Mute Records)


Thoroughly engrossing and entrancing, ‘Shaking The Habitual’, the fourth studio album from Swedish electronic duo The Knife, is an incredibly unique and strange record. The duo’s first album since 2006′s brilliant ‘Silent Shout’, ‘Shaking The Habitual’ embodies a post-punk like spirit both creatively and politically and as the title indicates, musically, it shakes up all programmed thoughts, ingrained rules, notions, and self-imposed boundaries.

‘Shaking The Habitual’ is a heavily percussive record made up of eclectic, and at times, an utterly bizarre collection of sounds, influences, and arrangements. Throughout the 12 tracks the listener is treated to layers of whirring synths, odd effects, atmospheric passages, ambient textures, harsh electronics, percussive rhythms, and ethnic delights.

The personality, mood and definable characteristics of each song is equally erratic ranging from dark and brooding (“Wrap Your Arms Around Me”), to aggressive (“Full of Fire”), atmospheric (“Old Dreams Are Being Realized”), disturbing (“Crake”), and just out-of-control loopy (“Fracking Fluid Injection”).

It’s a challenging and even uncomfortable album to listen to but it’s also an incredibly rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable one too. Granted, ‘Shaking The Habitual’ is not going to be for everyone and maybe not even be for fans of The Knife’s previous work. No one can however argue just how inspired and creative this body of work is. A must hear for fans of Bjork, Crystal Castles, Pere Ubu, Scott Walker, Faust, and Kate Bush.

As the opening track and first single, “A Tooth For An Eye” (read our review), it’s apparent that things vary quite significantly to the last time we heard from Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, both texturally and sonically. The Björk-esque number is extremely percussive and oddly organic thanks to its angklung rhythms, which heavily characterise the song. It’s a complex track both in terms of arrangement and instrumentation and although initially it appears to be less hook-y than previous material like “Neverland” and “Marble House” upon multiple spins hooks emerge in a most unusual way.

“Full of Fire” introduces us to the more familiar sounds of The Knife. An energetic and punk charged electro-clash number that sits somewhere between Björk and Crystal Castles, over its 9:17 “Full of Fire” builds and builds in intensity, not letting up for a second.

The first few minutes of the 9:44 “A Cherry On Top” are tripped-out and atmospheric, eventually leading to a darker and eerier second half where deep synth bass pulsate and detuned, dissonant string instruments are plucked. Echoes of Kate Bush can be heard in the brilliant “Without You My Life Would Be Boring”, which is the most cohesive and accessible track on the album and also features the album title in its lyrics. Like “A Tooth For An Eye”, it is defined by it ethnic qualities and driven by danceable tribal drums and timpani rhythms.

“Old Dreams Are Being Realized” is an ambient piece that clocks in at over 19 minutes, while “Networking” is a complex, up-tempo number that sounds like Kraftwerk malfunctioning. Similarly, the electro-clash “Stay Out Here” is not only beat driven but completely danceable of course in an unconventional way.

Amidst all the oddities there are hooks and passages of accessibility though they’re never delivered with a pretty bow atop. “Stay Out Here” and “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” for example are as straight forward as you will find on the record but they’re dark and menacing. Along with “Full of Fire”, “Without You My Life Would Be Boring”, and “A Tooth For An Eye”, the first few minutes “Raging Lung” are the hookiest on the entire record.

‘Shaking The Habitual’ is  an absolute mindfuck of an album. It’s brave, it’s unusual and after multiple spins it’s certainly one of our favourite records for 2013 so far. Roll up your sleeves and dive in.

‘Shaking The Habitual’ was released today 8 April, 2013 through Mute.

Watch “A Tooth For An Eye” below: