The Knife – Silent Shout

The Knife
Silent Shout

Being Swedish Grammis winners of “Pop Group of the Year” in 2003 for their previous work on Deep Cuts, specifically the ultra-sweet “Heartbeats,” expectations were high for The Knife to produce a delicious follow-up. Hell, the song was so good it jump-started two careers, The Knife’s and Nick Drake wannabe Jose Gonzalez (whose cover of the song was featured in a Sony ad campaign). However, those expecting the sibling duo of Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olaf Dreijer to plant another digestible pop hit on the international scene may be slightly put off by some of the ghastly sounds on Silent Shout. This record, the duo’s third, moves in a decidedly darker and different direction than its predecessor.

Silent Shout immediately establishes its supremacy to Deep Cuts’ dance-floor pop. Gone are the awkward transitions from 4/4 techno to weird music box romps, having been replaced with self-assured arpeggiated synth lines and gross electronic squelches. Karin’s vocals have been treated on just about every track, vocoded and pitch-shifted into severely higher and lower ranges than most of the previous albums’ material. Even the vocal parts that the average listener would be inclined to attribute to a male voice are hers. Just listen to the call-and-response part at the end of “We Share Our Mother’s Health.”

While these things can make initial exposures to Silent Shout bewildering and in some cases even frightening, time invested is key to the equation. On the one hand, those not already acquainted with much electronica might find the record impenetrable; fans of Bjork, Radiohead, and even mid-period Depeche Mode, on the other hand, will see recurring themes in the disfigured vocal approach and knotty keyboard tones. “Silent Shout” masks Dreijer Andersson with the voice of Starscream from the Transformers cartoon series, robotic and harsh over strong drum machine bleating. “Na Na Na,” “From Off to On,” and “Still Light” break up the grotesque onslaught of tracks like “Neverland” and “Like A Pen” with the sort of beatless-ambience one would expect if Boards of Canada took a more shadowy approach to its time-lapsed craft. “One Hit” has a campy feel to its story of raised fists and Corleone family comparisons. Al Pacino would be so proud.

The Knife has managed to surpass all of its previous efforts by doing the exact oppposite of most of its peers. While many electronic acts are trying their hand at folkier compositions and attempting to squeeze warmth from the digital realm, The Knife’s Silent Shout opts for ice-cold distance. The record suffers nothing for it, instead coming out monolithic and beautiful.