Friday, February 1st, 2013

The Knife – Full of Fire

Look out for a José González cover any day now…


Sabina Tang: Olof made a minimal techno mix and Karin free-associated over it for nine minutes. Which is to say the “song” isn’t a song, or even a standalone instrumental (intro-statement-variation-reprise-outro on a single theme, say), so much as it is a four or five distinct snippets flowing into one other, each of which hints at an identity as a separate track. My favourite passage is the one roughly 3:30-5:15, with Karin filter-rasping “Everyone’s giving me a knife… bitch,” and the ice-cutting semitone treble that eventually resolves into something latex-covered undergoing a great deal of physical stress. Second favourite is the 20-second fuzzbox electroclash outro. I have no qualms about rating and enjoying this qua techno, in other words; but as a mix it gets a point docked for being barely a teaser, and as a pop single… well, it isn’t. I never expected a reprise of Silent Shout‘s gothic thrills — Karin and Olof made those songs in order to wring all dramatic potential from their vocoders and arpeggio presets, and having figured out what the buttons did, moved on — but some melody on top of energy and danceability wasn’t too much to expect.  

Ian Mathers: It’s not like “Marble House” and “If I Had a Heart” et al were great songs despite having pop structures, but it’s also not like that’s the only mode the Knife can work in. On the basis of this song, maybe the album will be their equivalent to The Seer, a kind of apotheosis/culmination of their work. Meanwhile, the album art and the twitchier, death-drive parts of “Full of Fire” suggest a kinship with the likes of Excepter. And yet.. they manage to make the length and the instrumental passages signify, and as a result this actually does feel like a single. There’s no chorus, not even much of a structure, but it’s gripping (and weirdly catchy) throughout. I’m throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall here mainly just because I don’t think we’ll have a good grip on “Full of Fire” this year, let alone this week. God, it’s good to have them back.

Iain Mew: There is so much going on in “Full of Fire”. The drum patterns alone could support an entire album of enchanting, disorienting material. Twenty listens in, I could almost believe that I was listening to a procedurally generated Knife single formed anew each time, from how much I still keep hearing new things and being surprised by the twists. I say almost because I don’t believe that any algorithm is this good. Possibly they spent all of the years since they last finished recording just building stuff to go into this song and scattering it around a carefully plotted labyrinth. My favourite thing of all is that the big reveal at the centre of that labyrinth, the moment of maximum intensity at the end of a journey that starts off plenty intense, is a pun delivered in vomiting robot voice. LAUGH, WE DARE YOU.

Alfred Soto: Boy, she sure can scrape her voice across those serrated keyboard fills. Obtrusive in the best sense until the four-minute mark, after which it’s merely obtrusive. 

Edward Okulicz: Karen Dreijer Andersson’s lozenge-requiring vocal is uncharacteristically horrible on the ear, the words are complete nonsense with aspirations towards being evocative nonsense, and the middling techno is middling because when it gets into a good bit it changes into a boring bit 30 seconds later. Too much thought went into some parts of this, and not enough into others. I get that this isn’t music for pleasure, but I’m not sure what it actually is or does other than, you know, go on a bit.

Scott Mildenhall: There’s a lot that could be said about this, but what keeps springing to mind is that it’s a bit like a less fun version of The Human League’s “Night People.” That, and that the Pet Shop Boys could easily make it into a medley with “Mickey.”

Brad Shoup: When I want to zone out to percussion, I’ll put on a Smithsonian Folkways album. When I want to listen to Andersson do her imitation of backwards singing, I’ll wait for it to be surrounded by an actual song.

Jonathan Bradley: The first time I listened to this — nine interminable minutes — I hated it. The aimlessness, the discordance, the abrasion: it seemed purpose-built as a trap for the pretentious and masochistic. I could be barely bothered with a second listen, but when I returned to suffer again, I found something strange: an eerie and entrancing exercise in building intensity, a tightly wound knot of a tune that grew tighter as it neared its finish. Perhaps the second time I allowed myself to succumb to The Knife’s atmospherics, submerging myself in the crawling paranoia rather than eyeballing it from a skeptical remove. Perhaps the aesthetic qualities of ugliness become more tolerable when they’re a bit more familiar. 

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Oh, you guys wanted The Knife, huh? You guys just got a WHOLE LOT of The Knife! The opening lyrics to their comeback song are as follows: “Sometimes I get problems/They are hard to solve.” From that point onward, the duo plan on solving every problem through bare electronic catharsis, the noise following sounding like they’re considering how to remix “Full of Fire” even as they write it. There’s a vibe of self-indulgence to the nine-minute piece, but the wild mood mostly lends it a confessional, deep-in-the-mind effect that explains whizzing synthesizer swoops, gargling vocal affectations and a surprise last-minute “Let’s Talk About Sex” interpolation.

Will Adams: Menacing. Unsettling. Relentless. I’ve been trying to pinpoint the moment in “Full of Fire” when I realize that it’s not going to let up. I think it’s at the three-minute mark, when Karin’s vocals are violently twisted and folded into the fray. From then on, the music engulfs me in flames. This is the sound of some of my most vivid nightmares.

Anthony Easton: Paranoid, evasive, and borderline abusive. The desire for a narrative to emerge against electronic noise would be almost too simple a message, but the formal bracken that threatens to drown the voice is so formally careful, and sounds so chaotic, so much is held in the tension. 

Katherine St Asaph: One of the music forums I used to lurk titled their Knife topic something like this: “THE KNIFE THE KNIFE OH GOD THE KNIFE.” This is roughly where I am with this track right now. It is bigger than me. It is like taking “We Share Our Mothers’ Health” and carving bayonets from it. It replaces all the melody with hissing vitriol because it can; if I were more of a rockist (and more willing to stake album bets on one single) I’d call it a deliberate fuck-you to all the umpteen dozen sugar-and-synth “inspired by The Knife” acts this decade. It sticks you with a fire/desire rhyme seven minutes in and gets away with it, because you’re too pummeled and enthralled to care. It talks about gender, and not just at the end; that part I’m convinced is a sarcastic joke, oversimplified #maleopinions butting in, pitch-shifted into a smarmy nerve-itchy liberal dude’s come-on and literally ending in a “blaahhhp.” (I could be wrong.) The tougher story’s earlier — and speaking of, when the bitterness truly registers, this’ll be a [10]. (“Of all the guys and the signori, who will write my story?/All the guys and the signori, telling another false story” is pretty much there; same for the self-abnegating “what’s your story? That’s my opinion” intro.) If there’s an Oryx and Crake allusion I missed in this one, too, the scale doesn’t go up that high.

Patrick St. Michel: The Knife played around with gender concepts on Silent Shout, pitching the vocals so that Karin Dreijer Andersson sounded neither male or female and including a few lines hinting at the themes. “Full Of Fire” finds the duo rejecting subtlety and pushing the issue right into the listener’s face — the line “let’s talk about gender, baby” even gets repeated several times at the very end. Andersson’s singing once again undergoes vocal manipulation, but mostly serves to add a feeling of unease to a song sonically built on that feeling. And even though the group aren’t tip-toeing along the subject, they still throw in some lines that intrigue — “Not a vagina, it’s an option/the cock had it coming” makes sense, but they also go on about how “liberals giving me a nerve itch.” This is The Knife getting proactive, while still holding on to their mystique.

Reader average: [8.09] (33 votes)

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6 Responses to “The Knife – Full of Fire”

  1. Reading the raves makes giving this song an hour of my life so worth it.

  2. I don’t know yet exactly what I think of this song beyond really, really wanting the album right now.

  3. *I* want the live show; this will surely be mindmelting in a room with a good light-and-sound system.

  4. Good writing, all. Daniel made me laugh. The song makes me imagine Kim Gordon improvising karaoke to the second Liars album, which is a good thing I think.

  5. Katherine is totally right about the “fire/desire” bit; I barely noticed it until she pointed it out.

  6. I’m happy to make folk laugh *bows*