A Slice of the Knife
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this is Scandi-pop with a message — you just have to figure out for yourself what it is.
By Barbara Fletcher
You may have heard The Knife before. They’re one of those “weird” bands that defy description, often falling under nebulous labels like experimental or challenging, and with live shows that OD on dizzying lights, noise and performance art.
Or, you might have first heard one of their songs on a popular Sony TV ad back in 2005. Remember hundreds of thousands of colored rubber balls bouncing down a San Francisco hilly street? That was a cover version of “Heartbeats,” the band’s first single from their 2003 album, Deep Cuts. (The song has since been featured in episodes of Entourage and Girls.)
They’re known for appearing in bird-beak masks, eluding the media and shunning awards.
But Sony ads and HBO are about as mainstream as this Swedish electronic music duo gets. Siblings Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson are known for appearing in bird-beak masks, eluding the media and shunning awards. The Knife have been around since 1999 but didn’t perform live until 2006. They rose to semi-international fame in 2003, when their album became a hit, winning the Swedish Grammy for Pop Group of the Year. But they boycotted the awards show, sending two protesters in their place – members of the antisexist and antiracist group, the Guerrilla Girls — to send a message against male dominance in the music industry.
This early political move will come as no surprise to their fans. The Knife’s music, which sometimes flirts with electro-pop before plunging into dark and noisy barrages of sound, allows political issues to surface in their lyrics — especially in their most recent (2013) album, the epic, 96-minute Shaking the Habitual. Encouraging listeners to follow their lead of rethinking, reinventing and reshaping, the duo’s latest creation feels more riotus and primal in comparison to Silent Shout (Pitchfork’s Top Album of 2006).
They don’t actually consider the listener when they’re creating their music. Instead, they focus on the process…
Raised near Stockholm, the pair grew up listening to “progg” (short for “progressiv music” — not to be confused with progressive rock): lefty, anticommercial, homegrown folk music rooted in the ’60s and ’70s. So, in other words, the opposite of ABBA.
Both Dreijer and Andersson are feminists and dedicated artists. And they don’t actually consider the listener when they’re creating their music. Instead, they focus on the process, one that is influenced by their politics, reading (feminist and queer theory, post-colonial studies) and collaborations: creating not for the audience but for the experience. As they explained in a recent and rare NPR interview: Creating music is more about self-discovery and asking questions. But sometimes it can mean having a good time.
“We also just want to have fun, and kind of jam, and have a joyful process,” Dreijer says.
And there is fun ahead. A recently announced North American 2014 tour brings the tweaked Habitual show to Canada and the U.S. — which includes a celebrated stop at Coachella in April. During their 2013 performances, fans were either baffled, annoyed or delighted by the show, which included curious events like absurdist aerobics and danceoke.
According to Revolt the concerts will be ”highly experimental performance pieces which push the boundaries and definition of a ’live show.’”
Get a taste of it here: