The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
This is an expansive and challenging artistic statement of an album, spread over two discs. It ranges from mechanical, almost tribal techno to droning noise, ambient drifts and grating metallic sounds but the unifying factor seems to be a sense of dissatisfaction at the world, either writ large or lurking in the background. The sound of decaying factories – the raves they might hold at night and their desolation during the day. It’s a difficult listen in parts (and it’s a good thing it’s broken up into two discs, although there is a single disc version without the 20-minute ambient drone track Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realised that closes the first disc) and not one, I suspect, that I’ll sling on the player often, but compelling in its own dark way.
Phoenix – Bankrupt!
And now for something completely different! The polar opposite of The Knife‘s opus, this is concise, bright, shiny and happy. Almost too cloying. In an understandable response to their fresh and unselfconscious break-out album, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, they have tried to one-up the layers of synths and 80s goodness, which has slightly obscured the immediacy of the melodies – however, early days with this yet and I half suspect that the diminished first impression will mean that it reveals its charms more gradually.
Neon Neon – Praxis Makes Perfect
Nice to see a return from this collaborative outfit containing Gruff Rhys (of Super Furry Animals) and Boom Bip (of, er, Boom Bip). Their 2008 concept album, Stainless Style, about playboy car designer John DeLorean (responsible for the fantastic-but-flawed DMC12, made famous in the Back To The Future films) was perfectly pitched and nailed its 80s aesthetic with great tunes and lyrics. Praxis Makes Perfect‘s subject is the rather more obscure Italian publisher and left-wing activist Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. I have not had long to digest this (quite short) album yet, but my initial impressions are that whilst it is good, their subject matter this time does not mesh with their updated 80s style anywhere near as well as in Stainless Style (where lines like “Cause you’ll see my reflection / In Michael Douglas’s mirrored sunglasses” perfectly complemented the mirror-sharp production).