Despite the odd brushes with the mainstream – Jose Gonzales’ cover of “Heartbeats,” frontwoman Karin Dreijer Andersson’s work with Royksopp – Swedish brother/sister duo The Knife still appear to pride themselves on being the most impenetrable presence on the Scandinavian electro scene.
Maintaining their reputation, their double-disc fourth studio album Shaking The Habitual is so overwhelmingly challenging that it makes Bjork’s recent avant-garde output sound like a by-product of a Simon Cowell talent show.
Indeed, if the lurid pink cover art didn’t already signal that the follow-up to 2006’s Silent Shout was going to be a provocative and abrasive affair, then the nine minutes of murky druggy techno that is lead single “Full Of Fire” couldn’t make things any clearer.
There are times when it’s impossible to classify Shaking The Habitual as a conventional studio album, particularly when it contains the likes of “Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized” and “Fracking Fluid Injection,” both of which are essentially just torturously long collages of industrial noise and ghostly wailing.
Elsewhere, “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” sounds like The Knife have stumbled onto a building site before a wall of shrieks and howls add to the whole disorientating nightmare feel. “A Cherry On Top” resembles the soundtrack finale to a David Lynch mindbender that’s been twisted and chopped-up beyond all recognition.
Even when Andersson chooses to showcase her more melodic side, as on the rattling electronica of opener “A Tooth For An Eye” and the tribal trip-hop of “Raging Lung,” her enchanting tones have to fight against sibling Olaf’s fondness for breathless beats and weird glitchy bleeps to make themselves heard.
Of course, The Knife have always been uncompromising. But by amplifying ten-fold everything which made them such a divisive act, on Shaking The Habitual they’ve created a record which although admirably brave, is one to be endured rather than enjoyed.