From the lawless abandon of its music to the off-the-rails cacophony of its videos (check out the polychromatic clip for 2006’s “We Share Our Mothers’ Health,” off that year’s Silent Shout), The Knife’s Olof Dreijer and Karen Dreijer Andersson have made disorder their lives’ work. In this group’s hands, even a medium as comely as synth-pop can sound dangerous and arcane. The duo can’t help it—they’re just that batshit.
Delayed gratification is key. After seven years of hibernation—and presumably sunlight deprivation—The Knife is back on its game with Shaking The Habitual, an album of bloodshot dance music that rewires Timbaland in one song and Cli-N-Tel the next. Those two were never slouches in the bugfuckery department, but Shaking The Habitual makes them sound innocuous by comparison. “Fracking Fluid Injection” is a more medieval variation of Timbo’s beat from Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” “A Tooth For An Eye” and “Without You Life Would Be Boring” are hip-hop-styled bangers that pop off with ballistic-missile intensity. After that, the record disappears into a hall of mirrors, not to mention groping synths, macerating foghorns, harried calliopes, and weird creaks. Even the maracas sound satanic.
The Knife has always been cagey in its dealings with the press, but Olof recently told an interviewer that the siblings had been ambivalent about collaborating again. Whatever the particulars of their relationship, it certainly doesn’t sound like they’re short on inspiration. Shaking The Habitual has minor drawbacks—it wastes too much time on shambling instrumentals, and a wall-to-wall rager would have been great—but this brother-sister team is still heroically alienating and giddily perverse. Mom must be proud.