35 Albums in 35 Years: 2006

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.

 

knifesilentshout2006: The Knife’s Silent Shout

Until 2006, I discovered all my new music through non-digital means, either from recommendations from friends or record store clerks, college radio, zines, label samplers, or by simply picking up something at a shop that looked cool or weird and giving it a listen. For some reason or another, it just never occurred to me that there was a virtual mountain of music information available to me online. Call it ignorance on my part. Laziness. Apathy. I don’t know, but in 2006 I finally got clued into the wonderful world of music blogs…and suddenly my life, home, and head were flooded with more bands, artists, albums, and songs than I’ll ever have any room for. One of those albums was Silent Shout from Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, Swedish siblings otherwise known as the duo behind electronic band The Knife. It was strange, quirky, cold, and dense, and it brought me back into the arms of electronic music hard. (So I went through a little raver phase in the late 90’s. Didn’t everyone?)

At first listen, Silent Shout confused the hell out of me. The album is all dark and icy synth sounds and noises, minimalist beats, a sometimes-Gothic vibe, and weird, often jarring, vocal effects. In some ways, the songs made me feel uneasy, almost like some slithering creature was creeping up next to me in the dark. That the band has cited Charles Burns’ graphic novel Black Hole as a source of inspiration only confirms my unease as that book swims in surrealism, alienation, and an almost Cronenberg-like fascination with the horrors of the human body (in this case, mutations brought about by a sexually transmitted disease). Naturally I just had to listen to the album again. And again. And again and again. With each successive listen, I found myself lost in the band’s stark coldness more and more. And it all started with a happenstance listen to the thumping and tremoring groove of “We Share Our Mother’s Health,” easily the strangest dance jam I’ve ever had the fortune and joy of hearing.

Thanks bloggers.

The fact that this seismic shift of an album was the follow up to the band’s 2003 effort Deep Cuts only makes it stand out more so. Where Deep Cuts favors warm and lush arrangements and moods, typified by the band’s most well known single “Heartbeats,” Silent Shout is much harsher, much murkier, but still somehow feels like a sonic depiction of a barren land laid to waste and covered in ice.

The album opens with the title track, a sprawling beat laid under a freezing synthesizer melody, low, humming, ominous voices singing/growling in the background, the brush and leaves of the dark and gloomy forest opening…and the beings therein lurking out into the night. “Neverland” then kicks in with a driving beat, synths and electronics that sound like the wind blowing, an almost pagan dance number at its core. The album continues in this general direction, every track as cold and mysterious as the one that comes before it. At times it feels sexual in nature, at others it seems to contemplate the very nature of life and love (“Marble House” for instance), at others it’s more ritualistic, like the whole thing is some grand opus and performance for the old gods, frozen in their ice, covered up by rock and snow. We use our electronics, our computers, and our synthetic devices to appease them. And then we crawl back into the woods, back under the leaves.

I’m still hard pressed to find another album like Silent Shout, one that’s so different and on its own wavelength, but that’s still catchy, and still able to use its little sound worms to burrow its way into my ears and stay there…for good. And the band continues making music in this way, exploring the darkness, and the heavens, and the nether regions, each record even more intriguing than the one that preceded it. I am super fan, and all because I decided to click play one evening.

Thanks again bloggers.

- Favorite song: “We Share Our Mothers’ Health”
– Runner up: “Marble House”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead; Joanna Newsom’s Ys; TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain; Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House; Beirut’s Gulag Orkestar; Jesu’s Silver; Jay Reatard’s Blood Visions; Grandaddy’s Just Like the Fambly Cat.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

One Response to 35 Albums in 35 Years: 2006
  1. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    I’ve been going through a thing again lately with this record. You’re right – freezing. Funny then how it makes you feel so warm once you know all its nooks and crannies. A friend once told me he felt like they were the modern equivalent to My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult – I kind of agree with that and kind of don’t.

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