Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, IDM
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's probably fair to admit that 2013 was a divisive year for fans of The Knife. The duo's return after a six year break was met with critical acclaim, but was also rejected by some fans. In the years since Silent Shout the band's fan base had grown.
It says a lot about The Knife's collaborative MO that midway through the Shaking The Habitual tour, they scrapped it and started over. Last winter, their troupe of dancers took time out to learn how to sing and play new versions of the group's songs. As Karin Dreijer told Dazed: "We wanted to make a dance show so the music had to be dancier." The result is a set of tracks that, compared to the prickly, experimental music of Shaking The Habitual, are purposeful, propulsive and emotionally direct.
The Knife’s decade-long journey through the human psyche came to an end this year when the Swedish art-tronica geniuses announced their retirement. They bow out with a record containing new renditions of seven of their best cuts, first reworked by the band for last year’s ‘Shaking The Habitual’ tour. The modernist, seductive pop of ‘Got 2 Let U’ is swapped for anxious bass music, while the mighty ‘Without You My Life Would Be Boring’ is given the techno overhaul it was always begging for.
To commemorate the second leg of the Shaking the Habitual tour, the Knife re-recorded several key tracks from that album, as well as choice songs from the rest of their discography, in the style they performed them in concert. Shaken Up Versions ends up being more than just a tour souvenir -- instead, it brings balance, as well as a new perspective, to their entire body of work. Karin and Olof Dreijer don't just make all of the mini-album's songs match their post-Silent Shout mood of frostbitten intensity; even that album's selections, the bookends "We Share Our Mother's Health" and the title track, sound brighter and more animated than they did originally.
The Knife’s tour behind last year's Shaking the Habitual was, depending on who you ask, one of two things: that Emma Goldman quote about dance and revolution put into radical, sweat-all-night action and tricked out with top-notch lights and choreography, or a canned and confusing mess of lip-synching and interpretive dance, an expression of social justice as told by the cast of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. This probably had as much to do with your stance on Shaking the Habitual as your spot in the crowd, because from Silent Shout on, the Knife have commanded a massive fanbase who have been waiting almost a decade to finally see them live. Shaken-Up Versions, an album of the remixes taken from the tour's setlist, makes a serviceable substitute for the live experience, and it's also a fine snapshot of where the Knife’s music is at right now: often challenging, at times a little frustrating, but at its core a thrilling body of work.
The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual tour was to concert jaunts by Scandinavian electro pop bands what Metal Machine Music was to albums by cranky Seventies rock stars: lots of people were furious about it, even people who hadn’t seen it - especially people who hadn’t seen it - and those who did enjoy it banged on about it in a way that suggested they’d just gleaned the secrets to the cosmos or something. The word ‘pretentious’ was darkly muttered by people who didn't understand the meaning of the word 'pretentious', while even the smuggest enjoyees tended to assume that The Knife’s had in fact intended to wind up the other half of their audience. I’m really not sure that was the case, though I can see why you’d think so: clearly Shaking the Habitual itself had been wildly confrontational, fuelled by radical politics and a bloody-minded-bordering-on-perverse determination not to make a _Silent Shout Part 2_.
The Knife are calling it quits, or something like that, at least. Given that Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer both seem totally unconcerned with whether they should do things a certain way or not and are explicitly stopping because “it should only and always be for fun,” who knows what will happen in the future? It’s natural, though, to try and look at what might be their last release for something. Clues, meaning, catharsis, something.
Taking some of their best tracks and breaking them down, the remix EP Shaken-Up Versions offers an alternate take on eight of The Knife’s songs. With tracks like the moody “Silent Shout” and the bouncy “Bird” stripped of their defining elements, the mini-album mostly just serves to remind how fantastic the source material is. Karin Dreijer Andersson’s vocals are laid bare over simplistic beats and shrill synthesizers.
The Knife are a twisted, Lynchian dream. They suckered you in with steely organic electro, then sucker-punched with an album brimming with subversive intent and a live show straight out of Mulholland Drive. Shaken Up Versions, the sound of their identity-bending, divisive live show, has now been given a physical release, free to move house parties, warehouses and nightclubs.