There's nothing pleasant about digital shrieking so shrill that the finished product is as distant from birthday cakes and sunshine that you can possibly get, but the Knife's Silent Shout is nonetheless this year's chillingly grim electronic masterpiece. It's as if the Swedish brother-sister duo behind the Knife, Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson, don't choose to interview in monstrous crow masks and with voice manipulators; it's that they simply have to.
The Knife garnered video awards, a Swedish Grammy and massive public attention in their homeland for their pre-Silent Shout opus, Deep Cuts. With the speed and timeliness of a New York City FAA guidelines review, Deep Cuts will finally see U.S. shelves, only three years after its original release.
Delectable synth lines waltz with Karin Dreijer Andersson's helium-powered Cyndi Lauper delivery on the Knife's Deep Cuts, and in its devilish arrangements, it's a compellingly rendered electronic trip. While the stark atmosphere for Silent Shout was captured in a vacant Stockholm carbon dioxide factory where some of the album was recorded, Deep Cuts is coated in fuzzed synth electro-pop, with memorable lyrical gems ("I'm in love with your brother, what's his name?") and the prominent appearance of steel drums that fit in as inexplicably well as they did on the Hollies' "Carrie Anne." Though these dazzling compositions have more than their share of bright moments — such as the faux strings sweeping in on the bridge of "One for You" atop its soldier-march beat programming — Deep Cuts as a whole isn't nearly as digestible as its popular discotheque-ready "You Take My Breath Away" (featuring Swedish pop artist Jenny Wilson) or the oft-cited "Heartbeats."
The anthemic "Listen Now" rides a house-driven beat and an array of prodding synth stabs that call to a packed dance floor, spotlighting the unconventionally dismal announcement that follows in "She's Having a Baby." With the aid of exaggerated vocal impediment and spooky, lethargically performed chimes, it's as if the "Baby" being discussed here is Rosemary's. Again, "Heartbeats" is the durable, techy counterpart; the celebratory patter of steel drums, the beat claps and the thickening synth swells would have ended up in at least one Molly Ringwald film, had it been written before the actress disappeared off the face of the earth. The Mute release includes the Rex the Dog remix of "Heartbeats," and it seems as valuable as any of the original album cuts.
In January of 2005, the Knife, infamous for their "no live sets" rule, played their first show ever — a brief outing alongside London DJ/electronic producer Rex the Dog. His surging, sped-up rendition of "Heartbeats" is one of the three U.S.-only bonus tracks to be included on Deep Cuts, and its clipped manipulation of the original's backdrop climaxes after four minutes, a glorious peak of chopped vocal bits and the pummeling of the new machine gun beat-rolls. It's closer to the occasionally danceable makings of the Knife's 2001 self-titled debut, which is also finally seeing North American release.
The comparably low-fidelity recordings that comprise The Knife, though not as immediately captivating as those on Deep Cuts, are still sonically interesting. Live instruments on The Knife play a bigger role than they would in 2003, with playful analog organ swirls and accordion in essential entries like "Parade" and reverberating beat clips in "I Just Had to Die." Bleak moments in "Bird" are accented by call-and-answer guitar licks that sound somewhat humorous, if as menacing as anything here, but there are rewarding, atmospheric items on The Knife that shouldn't be overlooked when revisiting their catalog. The same can be said of the colorfully diverse DVD that accompanies Deep Cuts in this release. A short film by Rabid Records co-founder Frau Rabid could sub for a Donnie Darko outtake, and the video for "Pass This On," which actually includes human beings as opposed to the former, registers as far more bizarre than any of the seven chapters.
A few years ago, the Knife were awarded a Grammy for "Pop Group of the Year" in Sweden. They refused to attend the ceremony, boycotting the music industry's male dominance with the help of two gorilla costume—wearing friends who went in their place. One can't help but wish that this would happen here, because an event full of people in gorilla costumes would be immensely more watchable than Mariah Carey. We'll have to wait for such a thing, but hopefully not as long as we've waited for stateside releases of the first two Knife albums. Let's see some gorilla firstname.lastname@example.org