4 to Watch: The Knife

Cutting Deep

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Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Members: [l-r] Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson
Fun fact: The Knife’s “Heartbeats” was covered by indie-folk singer (and fellow Swede) José Gonzalez and featured in a recent Sony ad.
Why they’re worth watching: The Knife proves there’s more to Swedish pop than ABBA and Roxette—its music pairs catchiness with depth.
For fans of: Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson, Annie, Björk

With layers of synthesized atmosphere and drum patches encased in ’80s synth-pop amber, getting to the heart of The Knife’s sound can seem an exercise in spot-the-influence. However, you needn’t engage in such analysis to appreciate the Swedish brother/sister duo. Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer started in 1999, and have emphasized a whimsically classic sense of melody alongside various technological backdrops, be they state-of-the-art or retro-futuristic. Dreijer once described one of the group’s videos as “occult and dark, but at the same time funny,” which is a concise—if not terribly evocative—way to summarize the group.

The Knife’s first two long-players—2001’s The Knife and 2003’s Deep Cuts—achieved modest success in Sweden, and found a small but devoted fan base in the rest of Europe and America. The techno-pop synthesis of the latter album appealed to those enamored with highly stylized, detail-oriented production, though the band’s ace song craft (moments on Silent Shout recall no less an art-song figurehead than Kurt Weill) foreshadowed something altogether weightier.

Silent Shout is The Knife’s third full-length, and the first to land an American release. Andersson’s lyrics detail a sickly, vaguely traumatic buffet of characters: the scared housewife, the hermaphrodite, the media addicts. About the hypnotic, subtly kinetic title track, she says, “it’s like when you dream and really want to scream something, [but] nothing comes out.” Still, Dreijer’s production adds sheen and brilliance to otherwise cold, mechanical parts, and the myriad manipulations of Andersson’s voice—a blue baritone here, a child’s meek cry there— betrays the duo’s fascination with sound, and its willingness to override “dark” tones with purely playful experimentation.

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