Category Archives: The Knife

Dancer of the Boreal Valley

Featuring : The Knife

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Although the slowing of 20JFG posts over the last couple of weeks wasn’t caused by it (honest), it has coincided with the final part of this writer’s favourite video series.  So it seems appropriate to post today about Dark Souls 3.

Doubly appropriate if you consider that we spend a great deal of time musing on how old things are reconfigured into new.  For while all of the Souls games have had entropy at their heart (from being set amongst collapse and ruin to the very mechanics of the game forcing you to constantly contemplate loss), Dark Souls 3 seems to embrace the remix.

While the graphical overhaul from one generation to the next is totally a thing and everything looks nice and pretty, what’s significant here is the way that locations from the first game are reused for the last.  The sun-kissed beauty of the gothic city Anor Londo is revisited, this time  draped in snow and cool blue light.  Rooms that housed painful, exhilarating memories of death (many, many deaths) are returned to and the sorrow is palpable.  For a series that revelled in showing you locations after a collapse, the walking tour of these same locations after a long, long time is…emotional.

But the remix, the remix here is significant.  It’s the remix of self.  The Kate Bush Director’s Cut.  The David Bowie Toy.  This is a backward looking game in many ways but it isn’t regressive.  It holds up its original form to the harsh light and forces you to play through its environs, to appreciate them anew, but to know that this is a cycle.  This is a series that must end because, like all the heroes that have passed through its stories before, to continue is to repeat yourself.  You died?  Repeat.  Your triumphed?  Start again.  You want more?  Here’s two biannual sequels.  Dark Souls 3 uses the remix not to make the old more palatable to the new, but to kill it with sadness.

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We Share Our Mothers’ Health (Shaken-Up Version)

In 2013/14 The Knife went on a farewell tour ostensibly in support of their album Shaking the Habitual.  Bringing along a dance troop, obscuring their presence on stage and mixing their ‘live’ performance with album playback, they were accursed of self-sabotage.

In 2014 they released an 8 track EP called Shaken-Up Versions which contained the versions of tracks played on the tour.  On it was the Shaken-Up version of one of 20JFG’s favourite songs of the 2000s, We Share Our Mother’s Health.  We were running a club night at the time it came out and that song is inseparable from all that was good and holy and banging in that dank basement.

On Shaken-Up Versions, The Knife strip We Share Our Mother’s Health of its deep percussion and bounding synth melodies.  In its place are hand claps and sub bass and a rattling drum edge, spinning round what I presume (and hope) is the original vocal.  It’s exhilarating.  It’s as if the memory of the 2006 version is conjured and held in place while the Shaken-Up Version is assembled anew around it.

And when it’s complete the 2006 banger has been sealed from the dancefloor.

You can get Shaken Versions on CD from Juno.  It’s also on all streaming services if that’s more your thing.  The vinyl’s probably going for loads on Discogs but I dare not look.

Shadow caravanseray

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Three thin pale sisters welcome you in with melodious voices. It is warm and it smells of clean sheets, baked bread and burnished wood. They bid you to stay as long as needed, and rest and recover before venturing back into the wilderness outside.

They smile and they swirl and all of your wishes are fulfilled. Cream soup, a well-appointed library, good conversation and delightful entertainment every night, shadow puppets running through the walls with a fairy tale that puts you to sleep.

Some things you do notice.

There is a subtle whiff of something sour in the breath of the three sisters, of something rotten in the food that they serve you, of something crawling behind the florid wallpapers of their lounge, of something awful in the shadow puppets that stretch and linger over the walls.

Also, note that you have never seen these three sisters in the light of day. Wait. You haven’t seen the light of day since you arrived here. Wait. For how long have you been here?

Tonight (it’s always tonight) shadow puppets run over the walls, dangle acrobatically from the wrist of a sister around the neck of another, leap on the floor and scurry into the shadows where their little eyes glimmer luridly. They jump on your chest like cats made of mist, and stretch their paws around your throat.

As you start dozing off, they whisper a strange story.

About a house in the countryside and a God-fearing father, a silent mother and three daughters who liked to play in the forest behind the country-house. About the shadowy things they met in that forest and how the father didn’t like them.

About how he forbade them from playing with the shadows and what the sisters did about it. Blades in the night, a brief trial. Three ropes over the branch of an oak, their bodies so slight it barely creaked.

And then the house empty, save for the shadows. And then thin pairs of pale arms tearing a rend in the veil, crawling back into the house and its lonely limbo, waiting for visitors to keep them company in the shadows of a night that lasts forever.

The Coombe – Tierra Amarilla

Troller – Winter

The Knife – Without You My Life Would Be Boring

Cabaal – In Flux

Mayerling – La Mort n’en saura rien

You roam the shadows for an eternity. Eventually you find your bag, and strike a match. You slowly get your bearings.

Ahead of you, there is a tunnel dug in the rock that heads further down. Go there.

In the wall to the right there is a portal humming ever so slightly. Go there.

2013 References

Image from book cover for Shirley Jackson’s ‘We have Always Lived in the Castle’.
 
We loved The Coombe’s parcel from A. Machen’s country, and Troller’s glaciar-like ballads. The lumbering beast that was The Knife’s album could perhaps have done with some light editing, but we nevertheless surrendered to its claustrophobic embrace (and loved the Margaret Atwood references).
 
 

Units of Time Rather Than Chords

Featuring : Katie Gately + The Knife

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(art is Full Face by Jordan Kasey)

A few weeks ago, we introduced you to Katie Gately via the mediumship of her Schemawound remix. Katie is a student of sound design, and we immediately loved what one reader called her “beautiful, haunting, pitch black spirals”. We couldn’t have imagined her next move was going to be fierce, intricate, psychegressive (it’s a new word we just made, for stuff that delivers the transportive elements of psychedelia with a sort of car door-slamming aggression – well, stupider words have caught on. shoeegaze.) POP songs, but put it this way, if the new Knife album is even half this good then it will be amazing.

Not that Katie sounds like The Knife. Rather she’s as difficult to pigeonhole as Karin and Olof are – or at least were, until everyone else ripped Silent Shout off and left it for dead.

Katie’s Pop Pop collection is pop music that can’t sit still, is exploding with ideas. Sometimes it sounds overloaded with thoughts, which find literal expression in Katie’s dense Disco Inferno-like lattices of words. But then on other tracks her vocals pull back and space out, disassociating from the rhythms and finding unlikely companions in choirs of pitch-shifted and manipulated vocals – her voice made into marching, chirruping armies of munchkins, automatons, Substance D-stretched friend-apparitions.

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Sometimes her voice catches on a cadence that it likes, and wants to examine over and over again in her mouth, and the whole music seems to scroll back and forth just to indulge her. The accompaniments seem made out of mindgames with individual units of time rather than chords.

Y’all is the opening track. Every track is different, so you need to listen to all of them, but listen to this one first.

Katie Gately – Y’all

Listen to Pop Pop on Soundcloud