The Knife – Sweden’s Greatest, Strangest Musicians

Formed in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg, after another band from here eventually became in active, The Knife became an unconventional entity all of its own. This brother- sister duo of Karin and Olof Dreijer formed in 1999 and released their first album titled eponymously in 2001. These Swedish siblings received great praise on their home turf as their own brand of electronica sounded delightfully fresh. With Olof generally providing the beats and instrumentals, which were a fairly light cluster of electro-pop sounds, Karin would throw her iconic shrill vocals over top. Their next release in 2003 was titled Deep Cuts, which received great reviews from several publications while adding a more synthpop sound to their repertoire. Hear the emotional and often off kilter subject matter began to surface further, accompanied by music videos that helped provide the odd aesthet
ic they are akin to.

The band at this point had never performed live and had not been seen in public, which became an ongoing theme. Often appearing in Venetian masks or covered in bizarre face paint for photo shoots, the siblings were cultivating a level of mystery that still surrounds them today. The opening track on Deep Cuts ‘Heartbeats’, was covered by Swedish-born indie folk singer Jose Gonzalez and used in a Sony TV advertising campaign which shot the group out of obscurity and came with a big paycheck that helped them establish their own record label – Rabid records.

Now able to release music under their own steam, Silent Shout hit shelves in 2006 where the group took their sound in a much different direction. This much darker and more aggressive sounding album showed that they were indeed pioneers of electronica not just participants. With Techno drums, pitched up vocals and odd synth percussion this album finally took them on tour, where they could visually accompany their new sound with a fantastic and cryptic set of displays. At this point it was clear the Knife had something that other bands lacked.

Despite the success of their third release Karin started up a solo side project where she took the odd leftfield elements of Silent Shout and amplified them. Releasing self titles album Fever Ray in 2009 she skewed sounds and sang in a multitude of different ways leaving behind perplexing and haunting tracks that are stygian and brooding. Some tracks were so well liked that they have been used in several TV shows including hit HBO series Breaking Bad and as more notably as the opening theme to Amazon’s Vikings.

Since then the Knife have released more content, getting progressively indefinable with each new album. Their collaborative work on Tomorrow In A Year is actually an opera based on the works of Charles Darwin and Shaking The Habitual is an unquestionably experimental outing with several tracks lasting well over 6 minutes. With collaborations with Royksopp among others and the second Fever Ray album which received rave reviews, the Knife in part and whole continue to change the musical landscape. Whether they tackle politics, fairy tales, monotony or gender roles they do it all it the most weird and wonderful ways that many people often find disturbing while others find it irresistible.