Comment permalink

The Knife - genius, or electro-prog nightmare?

I got an email from the band, the Knife, the other morning. If you don’t know them, they’re a Swedish electro pop group, with a penchant for the artier side, and whose albums have been getting progressively darker. Recently, one half of the outfit, Karin Dreijer Andersson, left the group to branch out and form a solo project as Fever Ray. The resulting album is tremendous, a slow burning, high intensity success. It sounds a lot like the Knife. If you haven’t already, I’d urge you to give it a listen.

Anyway, this isn’t what I wanted to talk about. What the email said was this:

Tomorrow, in a year - A Darwin opera

Tickets on sale from 21 April and 11 May 2009.

That’s right – the Knife (well, Olof Dreije), has written an opera in collaboration with the Danish performance group, Hotel Proforma. Called Tomorrow, In a Year, it’s about Darwin. And it’s not just an opera, either, but there are also six dancers, both modern and classical. And it’s not just an opera and modern ballet performance about Darwin, but a two parter that is “analogous to the development and publications of The Origin of Species”. The first part seems to be about the underlying structure of DNA, and the second about, well, evolution.

Now, if you know what this means, you’re a better man than I am. I’m a big fan of the Knife, and Darwin is one of my all time heroes, but I still do not have anything resembling a clue as to what’s going on. It could be awful. It could be amazing. I’d go so far as to say, it’s very unlikely to be average. Disappointingly, not many of us are going to be able to see it, as it seems to be only being performed in Sweden and Denmark. Maybe they’ll put out a DVD? Who knows?

It did lead me to think, however – is this the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen in the pop world? Sure, Pink Floyd performed in the ruins of Pompeii, but then, Syd Barrett was crazy, anyway. And six years after that, punk came to wipe the slate clean.

Do you think this is the ultimate in punk statements by the Knife? That it’s a big middle finger to convention, with them standing up for art, oddness and evolution in a reactionary world? After all, I can’t think of many better ways to spend the millions that Sony gave them for using Heartbeats in their commercial.

Or is this just an example of self indulgence, of an artist who’s taking himself and his work far too seriously?

I’m not going to pretend that I know, but I’ll tell you this; until I hear it (or hopefully see it), then I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt. Personally, I think that Dreije has banked enough trust in his musical bank for him to try something of this magnitude, but wow… you can see how it could go bad in a hurry.

What do you think – genius, or electro-prog nightmare?