Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, more commonly known as the Swedish electro-pop duo The Knife, released its third studio album Tuesday. The album, “Shaking the Habitual,” is the first from the band in seven years and builds upon the band’s almost monolithic image and mysterious performance style by challenging the listener – both in good ways and bad – to accept and interpret the band’s avant-garde style.
That being said, accessibility is the name of the game. Weighing in at 13 songs at a little over an hour and a half, the album is a feat to get through in one solid listen.
In explanation of the record’s marathon length, Andersson said in an interview with Pitchfork, “It’s nice to play with people’s time these days” and play it does – time manages to flow rapidly in some parts, and almost come to a standstill in others.
Besides the listener’s sense of time, the record also plays extensively with dissonance, ambient sounds and industrial noise. In particular, “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized,” a 19-minute epic track consisting of only instrumental discord and buzzsaw-esque experimental noise, really confronts the entire notion of what music is, something I think The Knife wants its fans to really consider.
When considering the abstract songs that make up a solid chunk of the album, it’s easy to imagine that the album drags quite a bit – something I think most would agree with. Other songs like “A Tooth For an Eye,” “Raging Lung” and “Networking” hone The Knife’s undeniable ability to write pop songs dressed up in an individual way.
Lyrics like, “Border’s lies / The idea of what’s mine / A strange desire / Drawing lines with a ruler / Bring the fuel to the fire” on “A Tooth for an Eye,” challenge the listener’s notions about extreme wealth and what it means to be human. The Knife asks this question to great effect, as the band tries with might to be as inhuman as possible in both physical and sonic appearance.
So what does this mean for The Knife? “Shaking the Habitual” is no doubt an artistic achievement that can be interpreted in an incredible amount of ways. It really is staggering (and impressive, don’t get me wrong) where some people go with this genre of music. With that said, it’s also important to look past the artists’ “statement” and look at the music itself. This might sound blunt, but “Shaking the Habitual” made me do many things when I heard it – I fell deep into thought and I heard things that I couldn’t even decipher the origin of. One thing I didn’t do was tap my foot.
“Shaking the Habitual” is an album that challenges a lot of commonly accepted views of our world. Its abstract style might dissuade some listeners from diving deeper into the album’s subject matter. The Knife has a large fan base to use as a platform for its message – but will fans be ready to approach the band’s newest work with open ears and open minds?