Musical cycles often surprise you. In 1997 Edward Ka-Spel observed, in an interview I did with him, that Radiohead had suddenly gotten huge by pursuing the kind of psychedelia that Legendary Pink Dots had been playing for decades. Fringe music, it seems, needs a channelling agent to really gain a foothold in popular music.

The cold and precise melody line and subdued, half whispered vocals of the namesake song of "Silent Shout" echo the promise that something similar is about to happen again. In fact, the song takes me back even further, to post-cold war cyberpunk culture and "Tactical Neural Implant" by Front Line Assembly. The Knife may conjure eerie scenes of the subconscious rather than robot wars in a dark future metropolis, but they have reawakened the spectre of a much maligned genre of electronic music and breathed new life into its weary limbs by rubbing them with a flair of conceptual pop music all their own.

The leap that The Knife has made since "Deep Cuts" is no less than baffling. Although that album gave the band major attention and credibility in mainstream media for a band of its kind, it still sounded like Bambi on the ice, going in four directions at once but falling flat. This lean and mean piece of work is more like a panther closing in on its prey. None of the tedious and often embarrassing interludes - the painful vocal bravado of "Rock Classics", for instance - marring the debut album remain to disturb the picture here. Just like back then, the songs are pieces in a puzzle of characters and themes, but this time the pieces all seem to fit.

Karin Dreijer Andersson's vocals have improved vastly and are joined by other voices, notably Jay-Jay Johansson's in "Marble House"; a heartrending duet in electric blue if there ever was one. The dynamic shifts of pace and mood, from the slow burn of domestic boredom to sudden outbursts of extroverted desperation and back again, form a perfect unity on this album, much larger than the sum of its songs.

Haunting but achingly beautiful, it brings together dark electronica and intelligent pop on what may well be the album of the year. If not, well, then we have a hell of a year to look forward to.


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