It's hard to believe it's been nearly seven years since The Knife's last record, Silent Shout, but in the last few weeks the long-dormant Swedish electronic duo has shown some new signs of life. On April 9, The Knife is set to release a new album, Shaking The Habitual, a 98-minute-long double CD (and triple LP) that’s bound to make up for any lost time. According to the 13-song tracklist, the record has couple songs just under a minute, but most tracks are around that five to ten-minute mark. And there’s even one song ("Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized") topping out at 19:22. Let's just go ahead and agree this album is going to be epic.
Today we're finally getting not so much a first taste, but a satisfying main course preview in the form of a short film for the nine-minute single, "Full Of Fire." The song has that distinct sound of The Knife: brimming with serrated beats and icy synth lines over a propulsive, grinding techno groove, and vocals equally beautiful and unsettling. But it's the accompanying video that has raised a few heartbeats.
Directed by Marit Östberg -- a feminist porn creator known for her work depicting “queer bodies and sexualities” -- the stirring and thought-provoking video is a sprawling montage of various gender-bending characters, including an elderly woman dressing like a man, a protester striking up a romance with law enforcement, biker women in bondage, and much more.
While there are strange moments and scenarios, for me it’s the lingering shots of seemingly-mundane images -- house-cleaning, a broken wine glass, fingers sweeping over a chain-link fence -- that, when paired with The Knife’s tension-building layers of sound, make the film feel strangely sinister and creepy. But near the end of video, we hear The Knife sing a refrain that ultimately serve as the mission statement for song and the film: "Let's talk about gender, baby / Let's talk about you and me."
Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, the members of The Knife, describe the vision of Östeberg’s work as “Uncompromisingly current. Uncompromisingly sexy. Uncompromisingly political.”
In a statement from the band, Östeberg goes on to explain the origins of the film:
“The film ‘Full of Fire’ started to grow as an embryo in the song´s lines ‘Who looks after my story’. Who takes care of our stories when the big history, written by straight rich white men, erase the complexity of human´s lives, desires and conditions? The film ‘Full of Fire’ consists of a network of fates, fears, cravings, longings, losses, and promises. Fates that at first sight seem isolated from each other, but if we pay attention, we can see that everything essentially moves into each other. Our lives are intertwined and our eyes on each other, our sounds and smells, mean something. Our actions create reality, we create each other. We are never faceless, not even in the most grey anonymous streets of the city. We will never stop being responsible, being extensions, of one another. We will never stop longing for each other, and for something else.”
That challenging and boundary-pushing artistic sentiment has always been part of The Knife and what I think I have come to rely on from the duo’s music. The Knife can be difficult to parse and a hard listen, but if the entirety of the new album Shaking The Habitual is as original and forward-thinking as “Full Of Fire,” I think music fans are in for something special.