Shaken, Not Stirred
The Knife formed in 1999 and since then they have made their rounds in the media with heavy political stances, dark, ambient electronica, mysterious personas and, most recently, theatrical live performances. From their self-titled debut in 2001 to Shaking the Habitual, which received mixed reviews, The Knife have consistently kept their fans and detractors on their toes. Their recent effort, Shaken-Up Versions, is a mini-album of reworked songs taken from every album released before it. Without taking into consideration that these songs were basically the set list for their last tour, the album seems a re-hashed attempt to resuscitate old material. In reality, it’s far from that. The new mini-album is a minimalistic, nostalgic journey and tribal take on The Knife’s crowd-pleasers.
Shaken-Up Versions begins with the human element of hand clapping used as a metronome in the reworked “We Share Our Mother’s Health.” The hand claps are followed by a sharp, shrill sustained synth note and a strong steel drum backing. Blaring synthesizers cut in and out of the song while the groove keeps the rhythm going. The song features more intense percussion elements, but for the most part stays true to its original form.
The “Got 2 Let U” remix begins with a four-on-the-floor beat with open hi-hats and frighteningly spooky synths. Unlike the original, Karin Dreijer Andersson’s whispery vocals aren’t as breathy because the song is more instrumentally dense. The third track, “Bird,” is probably the most shaken-up of the bunch. It features spastic steel drums with tom rolls and an eerie theremin. In the middle of the track, whirling synths fill space nicely. It’s the cacophonous heaven that electronic fans wish existed.
“Without You My Life Would Be Boring” starts off as a jungle dance number as Andersson (also known for her solo work as Fever Ray) complements the fast electronic drumming. “Pass This On” is a classic house rework that’s built to be played on any dance floor. Apart from being club-ready, there’s not much else special about it. It feels rushed and lacks the innovative edge that sets it apart from the original. “Ready To Lose” is subdued and visceral in every which way. It’s dark and ambient. It’s a slithering rework. “Stay Out Here” maintains a consistent groove throughout the whole song. It’s sexy and alluring while also being dangerous and haunting at the same time. It’s the type of song that makes you scared that you enjoy it so much. The mini-album closes with “Silent Shout,” which heaves any sloth into a toe-tapping, body-moving frenzy. Shimmering, delayed synths traipse over the song while Karen’s vocals elicit a sense of despair and wonder at the pain with which she sings.
Overall, Shaken-Up Versions will fare well for anyone interested in The Knife’s work, whether a long-time fan or a first-time listener. These reworkings are jungle-y, industrial, dark, grimey, sludgey, bare, minimalistic, you name it. The Knife know how to create an atmosphere and sustain it in a song. They’re aware of their context and adapt accordingly. They rarely make the next obvious move, which is what makes them both exciting and challenging. Apart from their political message and mystique, their music speaks for itself. Without The Knife, electronic music would be boring. They skillfully combine weird with dance into these reworkings.