It has been called “The 2013 equivalent of The Seer”, and finally after 7 years of waiting, a new The Knife album is here. The Swedish duo consists of siblings Karin and Olof Dreijer, and they have been making electronic music together since the late 90’s/early 00’s . The previous album, Silent Shout received a lot of positive feedback when it came out in 2006, and following it up would not be an easy task. Shaking the Habitual however doesn’t try to follow in the footsteps of what the duo has done before, but instead they use the album to explore new territories. In fact, Shaking the Habitual is almost twice as long as it’s predecessor.
Shaking the Habitual is a sonic journey through different electronic genres, and the duo leads us through industrial sounds reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, ambient sections with a hint of drone, topped off with vocals from Karin which sounds very similar to Björk. It’s impressive how cohesive and consistent the album is considering the wide amount of influences and the length of the album. Clocking in at roughly 96 minutes, Shaking the Habitual is the most ambitious album the duo has created, and getting into it might be a challenge for some.
The first song on the album is a fairly straightforward one. “A Tooth For an Eye” is a catchy song with really cool percussion-work and pretty fun synth sounds. It’s a nice little tune that could possibly be one of the hits from the album, but the following song “Full of Fire” marks one of the highlights on the first CD. The vocals are slightly more distorted, and there is a constant groove in the music that seems to build over 9 minutes. It seems like a much darker song than the opener, and there are hints at really experimental sounds that will appear later on the album. “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” is another very interesting song on the first disc, and it has a strong industrial vibe to it. Dark and dreary landscapes with a sound not that far away from what Nine Inch Nails did with The Downward Spiral. The last song on this CD works almost like an intermission between the two discs. “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized” is a 19 minute long instrumental ambient/drone piece. This song certainly won’t be for everyone, but if you’re listening with headphones, this song is probably one of the most epic experiences of the album. A lot of subtle things happening, and it creates a very creepy atmosphere.
When you make a long album, or in this case a double album, you really need to have a strong second half. The first songs often get stuck first, and in some cases you tend to drift off towards the end of the album, so it really needs to hold up. Shaking the Habitual continues on a high note through most of the second disc. “Raging Lung” and “Stay Out Here” are two highlights on the album, and the latter has a really epic buildup with some really twisted synths, resulting in a very inventive sound. But when it comes to the album being experimental, it really reaches its peak of weirdness on the track “Fracking Fluid Injection”. It’s one of the most bizarre and avant-garde songs I have heard in quite a while, and it almost comes off as being more of a message. “You made it this far into the album without a problem? Let’s put that to the test with this song”. The song can best be described as having weird sounds and weird vocals. This is really the only weak point on this album, and I still appreciate it for the artistic idea behind it, even if the music in it is rather… out there.
Shaking the Habitual is an experience you shouldn’t miss. The album is long and experimental, and it won’t be for everyone, but just checking it out will be rewarding. It might take five or ten spins before it fully clicks, but it’s worth it. This might very well be the best album of 2013 so far.
Standout Tracks: Full of Fire, Wrap Your Arms Around Me, Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized, Stay Out here.