The Knife – Tomorrow, In a Year Review


3/5

The new album from the Scandinavian siblings is one that is definitely different. Rather than a standard release it is the soundtrack for an opera based on Charles Darwin’s seminal work ‘On the Origin of Species’ which they wrote for Danish performance group ‘Hotel Pro Forma’ and so cannot really be seen as a follow up to their 2006 album ‘Silent Shout’ but rather more of a side project. A collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock, it really stretches the boundaries of modern music. It seems to be the popular thing in modern opera to recruit the aid of contemporary pop artists as was seen in the ‘Monkey Opera’ whose soundtrack was written by Blur frontman Damon Albarn.

An album that can’t really be put on as background music it has to be viewed as a performance piece and thus in conjunction with the opera that it is written for. The opening song (if you can call it that) is a collection of minimal clicks and droplet modulations reminiscent to the intro for ‘Like A Pen’ immediately leaving the listener questioning the intentions of the album. As the album progresses, the juxtaposition of beautiful classical vocals against the harsh and garish synthetic noises provides a truly original concept as can be seen in ‘Ebb Tide Explorer’ which offers a chilling combination of soothing masculine tones and very deep synthesizers with an ever present treble that is constantly fluctuating in intensity. The addition of outside singers Kristina Wahlin Momme, Danish actress Lærke Winther Andersen and Swedish pop artist Jonathan Johansson adds dimension to the album, the Scandinavian vocals perfect for the record.

It has to be taken with a fairly open mind as some of the intros for tracks, such as ‘Variation of Birds’ would seem more appropriate in a Merzbow or at the least one of Aphex Twin’s more out there records. It is only in combination with the vocal parts that the music becomes in anyway accessible unless for the overly pretentious. There is a definite underlying development which progresses through the album with ‘Letter to Henslow’ using human vocals with delay effects to simulate jungle animal noises and the following track ‘Schoal Swarm Orchestra’ where what I assume is the scratching of a microphone produces a similar feral sound.

It isn’t until cd two that the album becomes properly accessible to someone who is only listening and not watching and one is able to relate to a more ‘Knife’ like sound. ‘Annie’s Box’ offers a gorgeous combination of violin and soprano whilst the transition from ‘Tumult’ into the breath taking odyssey that is ‘Colouring of Pigeons’ is superb.
I would like to give the album a better rating and perhaps I am not doing the album justice but its initial inaccessibility which would only be more suitable for the opera it is written for makes this hard to do so. Nevertheless it is an extremely engrossing album and one definitely worth a listen.

‘Tomorrow, In a Year’ is out on digital release and will be released on cd on March 1st. Also, the opera is touring various European countries, information of which can be found here

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