The Knife opens Silent Shout with the title track. As mysterious and icily beautiful as the Scandinavian winter is long, its sinister bass line is followed by frantic synths, digitally processed vocals and drum programming that scratches like rusty needles. But what is Karin Dreijer Andersson saying, her voice sounding barely human over the claustrophobic racket created by brother Olof Dreijer? Something about "In a dream all my teeth fell out/a cracked smile and a silent shout." Whoa. Like the duo's decision to keep their faces permanently obscured by (usually creepy) masks, it's clear that they consider beauty best when it's streaked with madness. Paranoia figures into most of Silent Shout, from "Neverland" (Singing for money/that burns my hand") to the eco-political "Forest Families," which refers to a place "Far away from the city/[where] we came to breathe clean air." But by layering their forays into psychic and social trauma over brittle, thoughtful, even catchy programming, the Knife cuts a thin line between scary atmosphere and exquisite chill-out. With its wavering anti-melody, closer "Still Light" makes you feel queasy, uneasy and a little scared. But it's somehow comforting, like a sickeningly dark lullaby. How'd they do that?
Walter Wasacz writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].