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Top 20 Albums of 2013

Top 20 Albums of 2013

Knife-band

9. The Knife
Shaking the Habitual
[Mute]

Clocking in at over 90-minutes,Shaking the Habitual has about the same run-time as a feature-length film. Recorded by The Knife over a two-year period, the 13-track release (which takes its title from a Michel Foucault quote) was the duo’s most artistically and politically ambition project to date: an aural statement inspired by readings in feminist and queer theory. However these messages are not preached through Karin Dreijer Andersson’s Nordic bellows, but the isolated melodies, warped electronic waves, foreboding textures and boundless uncertainty that line this collection of understated movements.

the-knife-shaking-the-habitual1Where Bjork laid the groundwork for worldly endeavors amid the darkest of pop’s boundaries, the Knife’s Andersson and Olof Dreijer have broken off and cut their own path through dense underbrush of jarring percussion and an enchanting upper-register. These endeavors have grown quite lengthy, with Dreijer’s lush electronic meanderings now pushing over eight minutes on multiple occasions. From distorted brass arrangement (“Raging Lung”) to intergalactic emptiness (“Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized”) the expansiveness of these compositions means a production palette free of genre restrictions.

The album’s spaciousness allows for moments of deep introspect, but it’s not without its more rave-ready moments. Commencing with a standard house intro, “Full of Fire” eventually builds into a wonky tech-house single that evokes memories of the 1990’s Detroit underground. And “Networking” embodies all the chaos that can be heard in the disorienting rhythms of juke and grime. Be the emphasis on stirring bodies or minds, there is always more to explore within the prevailing electro-organic interplay.

Outspoken, the Swedish brother-sister duo preferred to remain veiled behind their masks during 2013 when confronted with the media limelight during their international tour to promote the album. While pop-starlets like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga mix a message of female empowerment and sexual equality with absurd levels of celebrity, Andersson and Dreijer allow for their ideals to take precedent over the entertainment. Like all great writers, the Knife allow us to feel their thoughts and ideas and concurrently construct our own unique realm of reflection. So, while the beats might not be easily digestible, the work is well-worth the reward. A notion that reflects the current struggle for, and the Knife’s theme of, global equality. – Derek Staples

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