"I bought this because it was listed on Pitchfork as the best album of 2006. I was skeptical, but bought anyway. My music vocabulary isn't extent enough tto describe the layered greatness of this album. By far the best thing I've heard in the last six months. If you love electronic beats, get it!"
Original, song-oriented album in the 90s style.
Angry Mofo | 12/04/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The first song on Silent Shout is a contender for the best dance single of the decade. It takes many cues from Underworld's 1993 classic Dubnobasswithmyheadman: the sparse production, the gradual build-up, and even the bass line recall "Dark And Long." The Knife's fascination with vocal distortion also owes a lot to Underworld. However, the song doesn't just recreate the basic sound of nineties techno, it also recreates the focus on original, catchy rhythms and vocal lines. The keyboard lead in "Silent Shout" is incredible. The rhythm is distinctive, very easy to remember, but quite complex, with a lot of variation in the basic pattern. I can't think of any band of the 2000s that managed to come up with an original musical phrase of this length -- the music of the 2000s tends to focus on extremely basic loops.
The title track also has subtle shifts in dynamics. Toward the end, the main keyboard line gains a louder and sharper sound, the individual notes start to blur together as if the music is about to fall apart into noise. But instead, there's a break, the turbulence quickly dies down, and ghostly echoes appear in the outro.
The album as a whole is a bit less brilliant, but still immensely enjoyable. The composition is firmly rooted in the song-oriented style of the early nineties, which brings out the originality of the songwriting. Karin Dreijer's vocal style was probably inspired by Bjork's (the same heavily-accented dissonance), but Bjork never thought to warp her own voice the way Dreijer does in "The Captain." She comes on suddenly, after a long, Autechre-like ambient intro; the distortion renders the lyrics unintelligible and makes her voice sound like the call of some shrill, wild bird. There is a certain triumphant, predatory tinge in the vocal rhythm. You'd think they were singing about war instead of sea captains.
In many songs, the lyrics appear to express some kind of oblique, vague feminism. "Neverland" is apparently about a high-end call girl who coldly regards her clients, "One Hit" appears to mock traditional ideas of gender roles, and "Forest Families" seems to be about how a young woman feels stifled growing up in a provincial town where adults "said my favourite book was dirty, and 'you should not show you can read.'" I say "seems" because most of the lyrics are indirect, and often suffer from Bjork syndrome, where awkward metaphors and grammatical mistakes are passed off as an original way of expression. For instance, "From Off To On" bothers me a bit, since it uses such an earnestly sentimental delivery (and a demonstratively childlike melody, which I'm pretty sure they lifted from some old Russian children's LP or other) to say such lines as, "we want happiness back, we want control of our bodies" (is that really such a problem in contemporary Sweden?), followed by, "I had a dream about deleting and killer whales." But that's just me; Bjork fans will be all over this.
What appeals to me more is the album's tight sense of the dramatic, something it shares with early Underworld. "Forest Families" is sort of a simpler version of "Silent Shout," with the same type of worried keyboard line. But, whatever one may think of the lyrics, when Dreijer intones, "music tonight / I just want your music tonight" in the chorus, that really captures the frustrated young person's desperation. "Marble House" has a swooning, colossal chorus. The verses and music aren't anything special, but when the distorted falsetto starts warbling the rhythm of the chorus, it's pure pop heaven. "Neverland" sounds as icy as its subject, and when Dreijer hoarsely repeats "the money burns in my hand," it creates a haunting sense that the protagonist is about to snap under the pressure.
There are only three songs where I don't care for the music: "We Share Our Mothers' Health," "Like A Pen" and "One Hit." All three songs are much less melodic than the rest of the album, and use a jagged analog drum-and-bass rhythm section similar to Aphex Twin's Chosen Lords. "One Hit" is the best of the three, since the lyrics are pretty funny, but none of them can boast anything in the way of melody. In my view, that's the only reason to give the album a less-than-perfect score.
Overall, though, this is without question one of the five or ten best albums of the decade. It's the first electronic album of the 2000s to really go back and relearn the lessons of the early nineties, but instead of merely imitating the classics, it uses them to emphasize new, creative musical ideas. In particular, the first three tracks are extremely strong, and make one feel like one is experiencing something completely new and unheard-of. If the entire album doesn't quite meet that standard, that's only because it's a really high standard."
Music for my DNA
Miss Stir Flippytale | Memphis, TN | 02/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another one of those GREAT albums that I must absorb into my DNA. Many repeated plays to come!"
Review of Silent Shout
Sydney | Charlottesville, VA | 04/08/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Silent Shout is the third album of Swedish electronic duo The Knife, composed of brothers Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson. The album takes on a very sinister feel, between Andersson's distorted vocals that often sound like something taken straight out of The Exorcist and the continual resonant high pitches that run throughout the album that are occasionally goosebump inducing. The Knife manages to walk the fine line between dissonance and harmony, with sounds that are occasionally so off-pitch that they are almost painful to hear. Indeed, the use of harsh sounds makes the Knife unlikely to ever break into the mainstream, despite being tightly wound into pulsing beats.
True to their namesake, the most outstanding aspect of the album is the knife-like concision of the beats created with percussions and synthesizers. The percussions run choppily album in pulsing, concise beats, which are often used to great effect. For example, the title track "Silent Shout" begins and ends with a prominent drum beat that is reminiscent of a heartbeat before the shrill synthesizer beats come in, which adds to the creepy, dark aspect of the album. The variance in the percussion is also impressive, such as the range from a bizarre rattling sound in "Marble House" to an almost tropical Caribbean drum beat in the same song. The synthesizer is also often used to create a textured layer to the beats, coming in sharp pulses of high-pitched sound the oddly complement the more full-bodied sound of the percussions.
At the same time, the synthesizer is also used to heighten the mood of the album with looming melodies. The synthesizer almost seems to moan intermittently through the songs in and out of the sharper beats, such as in the beginning of "Forest Families." The vocals lend a similar effect to the songs. The heavy distortion of the female vocals can make them sound shrill and drawn out over the course of the same song. On "Silent Shout" the vocals almost sound like they are layered on top of one another to create an almost demonic effect, and in many other tracks the female voice is significantly pitch shifted. Although the vocals lend themselves particularly well to the haunting mood of the entire album, they tend to lean towards cacophony rather than harmony and are somewhat difficult to listen to. The female vocalist always sounds noticeably strained, almost to the point where the overall effect could be described as "constipated." Although the distorted vocals blend in seamlessly with the beat of the album, they sometimes seem to detract from the overall song, such as on "Still Light," which features the downshifted Exorcist sounds combined with screeching vocals.
Given the occasional abrasive qualities of the sounds used, perhaps the minimalist use of sound is what particularly suits the Knife. The album is peppered with masterful uses of silence that becomes part of the music. In fact, it makes some of the sounds used that much more shocking to the ear, and infuses the beats with much more life, making their sharp punches more pronounced.
While Silent Shout definitely carries a certain appeal with its seamless beats and commitment to the thematic creepiness, it is definitely not an album for everyone. However, after getting beyond the initial inaccessibility of the album one finds a deeply and darkly emotional album with rich musical textures woven throughout. "