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The Knife - Swedish duo hoping to cut it in synth-pop world


Feature: Jack Foley

"MOST art (and music) is shit. But it’s worth listening to and look at, ‘cause when you finally see something you like, it’s fantastic."

So says The Knife, who, as their name suggests, are not a conventional band content to offer vacuous platitudes served on a diet of mediocrity.

A brother and sister duo (Karin and Olof) from Stockholm, in Sweden, they claim their music – which blends melodic electro-pop, machine-made rhythms and dark, curveball twists – is nothing more than pop, yet their songs speak of an informed and subversive political agenda.

They refuse to play live - but don’t think this is a bold statement - and deride rock’n’roll for being outdated.

"We want to react against the organic, improvised expression. We wanna do a more synthetic, weird and non-organic expression," they insist.

"Within the artificial expression new moods and spheres arise. Electronic music is absolutely the music of the future. Machine music is good."

It's little surprise they think as they do, given that the pair namecheck Sonic Youth, Kate Bush, Le Tigre and Siouxsie And The Banshees (Karin) and hard techno, UK grime and southern US rap (Olof) as influences.

Their first eponymous album was released in Sweden, in 2001 (it finally saw the light of day over here earlier this year).

Billed as a collection of emotional electronic punk pop, its razor-sharp aesthetic told tales of a political bent shaped by fierce views on animal rights.

Abum number two is Deep Cuts, from which the single, Heartbeats, has already emerged.

Already certified gold – 30,000 copies and increasing - in their homeland, Deep Cuts represents a giant leap forward for the duo.

Recorded in Karin’s basement, the duo believe that the album's ‘expression, lyrics and music is more clear and colourful than The Knife. "It’s more hard and tough," they boast.

Yet, like its predecessor, Deep Cuts is suffused with a political edge. This time its feminism.

"When we were making the album we were thinking a lot about making music which could have a dialogue with different kinds of people," they suggest.

"For example we wanted the feminist issue to get out to a broader audience, not only to those already familiar with it. So we tried to package the music into something we thought could create that kind of communication or dialogue."

This communication has already led them to winning a Grammy in Sweden, but rather than bask in the glory The Knife boycotted the ceremony, prefering instead to send along two of their friends.

Nothing out of the ordinary there you might think, save for the fact their buddies were wearing gorilla masks and t-shirts each emblazoned with the number 50.

"We are tired of the focus on people instead of music in the media," Olof rallies. "Therefore, it’s better to send someone you don’t know, and who is also dressed as a gorilla. We are also tired of the
disproportion between gender and power in the music industry.

"Of the ten biggest labels in Sweden, only one has a female general manager. None has a female A&R.

"The gorillas had t-shirts on which had the numbers 50 on it. So they scremed 50, 50!

"And they said this thing about the disproportion in the industy and that The Knife’s winning concept is 50/50! That’s why we are so succesful! Great, innit?"

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