This is the world of The Knife: precise, particular, dark, occult, funny-peculiar, funny-ha-ha. This Swedish brother-and-sister duo, Olof and Karin who form 'The Knife' work mostly on their own in splendid isolation; they release music on their own label, licensing it to selected partners around the world, so they have to answer to no one.
'Silent Shout' is their third album and in March 2004. Recordings commenced in an old carbon-dioxide factory, then moved to the vaults beneath The Grand Church in Stockholm's Old Town. Olof and Karin planned to build a permanent studio underneath the church. But 15th century medieval brickwork and future-sounding art-synth-pop proved incompatible. 'We had to move because of the poor sonics of the room,' says Olof. 'But mainly because it was so old the walls were falling apart so we had brick dust in our lungs.' Retreating to the health and safety of their respective home studios, then a Stockholm studio complex, The Knife finished the album just as the huge exposure for Heartbeats was introducing the craft and magic of their songwriting to a worldwide audience.
Karins voice is manipulated and transformed every which way, a cacophony of vocal styles evoking the myriad characters peopling these songs: solitary sailors, a hermaphrodite, a sickly person or two, male-bonding groups in crisis, TV addicts, a scared housewife and, The Knife say, 'a biologically weighty citizen that desperately tries to get to know his body'. Karin says it's the 'scared housewife' who is singing Na Na Na but she's unwilling – unable even – to provide too much more detail. In contrast to the overt political content of Deep Cuts, for Silent Shout she wanted to do something 'more under the surface. It may take a little bit more time to see what we say. But I don't know how to separate art and politics. You make art about what's in your head. It's difficult not to think about what's happening around you. 'I guess many songs are about looking for something to spend time, and to fill the body, to avoid loneliness and the physical functions or dysfunctions of the body. It's one step forward and one step back.' 'And the Silent Shout title, it's like when you dream and really want to scream something, nothing comes out. Or we are screaming but not telling you what we are screaming.' She's more forthright on the subject of forthcoming single Marble House (the first full single from the album which will be released on April 24th). One of the best songs on the album, it begins with the synthesised sound of castanets before evolving into techno-ballad in waltz time. 'We wanted to do something between The Sabres Of Paradise's Wilmot and the movie The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. And the lyrics may be performed by somebody who devotes herself to anything, just to have something to fill up her time.'
We Share Our Mother's Health, as well has having the best title ever, is a burbling electro groove, like Chicks On Speed managed by Malcolm McLaren. Karin views it as a 'sick' song, but also a counterweight to the more 'serious' Marble House. 'It's a very hysterical and mainly a panicked kind of song,' says Olof, who admits he often has no idea what his sister's lyrics are about. 'I can only relate to the harmonics. But the sounds are… like a new rubber material.'
Silent Shout is a brilliant fusion of technology and emotion, circuitry and the soul, melodrama and melody, will leave you gasping.
1. Silent Shout
3. The Captain
4. We Share Our Mothers Health
5. Na Na Na
6. Marble House
7. Like A Pen
8. From Off To On
9. Forest Families
10. One Hit
11. Still Light