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Cuts Like a Knife 

Patience rewards fans of these mysterious Swedes

Wednesday, Nov 1 2006
The Knife — the intentionally elusive Swedish brother-sister duo of Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson — garnered Stateside praise aplenty with its 2003 full-length Deep Cuts. Though the group already had a self-titled, eponymous 2001 debut, its now signature single, Deep Cuts' "Heartbeats," tuned the U.S. to its ever more tonally perverted, dynamically randomized synth-pop.

Near-universal fervent acceptance followed the Knife's 2006 full-length, the more oblique and dramatically pinched feminist-androgynous Silent Shout. Often such a critical din can bleach even the most emotive melodies' ardor. But cut through the hype and burrow deep into the occasionally dour electrohouse detailing and you'll discover a passionate, defiant heart can reside within even the most gnarled frame.

With an almost bunker mentality, the Knife recasts its humanity within techno's tropes. Electronically pitched and smudged voices blur gender, and the costumes reinforce shrouded solidarity. In some of the Knife's detuning aiyaiyaiys and unsettled synth steel drumlike arpeggios there is a vague resemblance to Cyndi Lauper's lost-but-reclaimed innocence anthems. Yet several pneumatic sequences could almost be seen as a hermetic seal warding off the casual listener. Strip away the swampy silicon shifts and dissonant "Being Boiled"Ðera Human League acetate and at the core of the Knife is slow-burning yearning, as has been revealed in sparse, poignant covers of "Heartbeats" by Swedish troubadour José González and the Scala Choir (easily sampled on MP3 blogs).

Some may consider a Weird Al version of your song as the ultimate pop cultural compliment. And a hypothetical parody — naturally involving food, flatulence and/or acid reflux, and surely called "Fart Beats" or "Heartburns" — would cheekily acknowledge the organic underpinnings beneath even the Knife's most calculated, unabashed theatrics. Even if stripped to Muzak, the Knife's spooked, at times knotty charms would be revealed as equally transcendent as at times metronomic. What's constant is the oneness of mechanical and emotional fluency that eschews popularity and rewards patience.

About The Author

Tony Ware


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