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ALBUM REVIEW: The Knife 'Shaking The Habitual'

29 April 2013 | 2:50 pm | Hannah Galvin

We thought we'd share with you our thoughts on The Knife's new record, 'Shaking The Habitual.


Have you ever felt truly confronted by a piece of music or artwork? If so, it's probably due to its honest exposure, releasing an intense, raw image that sits with you for an almost unnecessary long period of time.

It's usually because it obliges you to delve into its layers, finding meaning or just simply staring back at it with amazement. If you've had a proper listen to THE KNIFE's Shaking The Habitual, I expect you understand what I mean by this completely.

Seven years since the Swedish duo released their last LP Silent ShoutThe Knife's new album is made up of hypnotic soundscapes comprised from homemade instruments (such as old bedsprings), altered vocals, unconventional usage of traditional instruments and even recordings from mobile devices.

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In saying this, they've really pushed the limitations from the conventional perspective of music that we don't even realise are there. Why can't we undertaken the exploration of a violin's strings outside of the orchestral light? Why are certain sounds not defined as music and why are instruments specifically allocated to selected styles of music?

Shaking The Habitual was hyped by the brother-sister duo with an album teaser trailer, and have recently released a 13 minute video interview discussing the concept of the record.

Beautiful, odd, creepy and transcendent, Shaking The Habitual is very deserving of your attention.

'A Tooth For An Eye' opens Breaking The Habitual. A concoction of soft beats, tingly percussion and a variety of tropical synths that carry on with vocals evoking leadership, this track breaks open the album with a really exciting and whimsical setting. The structure and sound of this track sounds like it could have easily come from tUnE-yArDsWHO KILL.

Breaking The Habitual's second track and single is 'Full Of Fire'. One of the longer tracks on the record, its quite mysterious and puts you on edge a little bit. Sexism and the objectification of women is brought up, which is also represented in the track's clip; a short film by visual artist and filmmaker Marit Ostberg whose work usually focuses on images of queer bodies and sexualities.

It seems as though this album has slipped into a convenient pattern, as the next track, 'A Cherry On Top', is also the third single.This one is really intrinsic. There's a variety of sounds and experiments, yet the cries of the instruments suggest that these now personified sounds are lacking substance in their lives, possibly dwelling upon a loss as they are stuck in the lowest class of the Hierarchy.

With the first line being "A handful of elf pee", 'Without You My Life Would Be Boring' is sure to be an obscure one (if it hasn't been weird enough for you yet). Made up of tribal sounds and animal-like calls, this song exclaims security and territory in an animalistic way.

Continuing on with the lyrical intention of a union between two people, 'Wrap Your Arms Around Me' celebrates the spirituality, hormones and comfort of such a connection. A futuristic synth rides through, giving the song power, as well as a variety of different textures. I'm fairly sure I can hear the banging of silver spoons in this song.

A quick breath before a giant track, 'Crake' exists for just under one minute, and plays with the heights of instruments and their capabilities.

'Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized' is a 19 minute track that is festooned with a series of noises that dwindle in the open air, allowing a very atmospheric scene. It slowly but surely builds up into a combination of sound monsters. The way it's been put together led me to imagine a dark, eerie setting, where many mythological creatures live in both fear and curiosity towards what is to approach them. It just has that artistic, fantasy feel.


The second half of Shaking The Habitual begins with 'Raging Lung'. This one opens with quite a jungle-like feel through the vast use of percussion. The shakers and drums are soon overlapped by Karin's vocals though, yet are still audible. Through the strong lyricism, we're thrown into the wildnerness.

'Networking' squirts out in an oozey, bubbly manner. Very dry strings are plucked and there's been some vocal modifications. It's very speedy and is kind of reflective of our digital world.

Just like 'Crake', 'Oryx' is a squeezed out track comprised of the prolonged, sensitive howls and calls of synths.

'Stay Out Here' is the longest track on the second half of Shaking The Habitual, and is a three-way collaboration between The KnifeShannon Funchess and Emily Roysdon. Quite an alarming chant, the vocal duo request the company of one another in fragmented phrasing.

Delicate yet rusty violin strikes team up with female calls in 'Fracking Fluid Injection'. However, this isn't a consistently pleasant track. The instrumentation becomes aggressive and itchy, and the vocals reach a sense of pain and delusion. This track really wants to talk, so much so that its oppression can almost be unbearable due to how sharp and metallic these strikes become.

'Ready To Lose' staggers in with complete pessimism. The closing bracket to Shaking The Habitual, we're faced with loss of battle and fear of a culture. Its a story being told, yet also tells one that is forthcoming.

Once you really dig into this album, you'll realise how insanely genius and political it is. Look into the metaphors and the instrumentation and you've got a band protesting against certain societal values in a musical format. Do yourself a favour and purchase the album physically. Read the storyboards enclosed, match them up to the music on the album and relate back to the final message found at the bottom of disc two's lyric poster; a quote by French philosopher and social theorist Michael Foucault in 1984. Amazing.

Shaking The Habitual is available for purchase now via Pod Records through Inertia.

Words by Hannah Galvin.