Sunday, March 13, 2011

Comments on "The Wolf"

Karen has come a long way since "Heartbeats", but not so quickly that we can't go back and see it happening. Silent Shout saw the Knife turning their music towards the frigid and stark in a major way. Fever Ray saw her drawing herself out and removing some of the pop. Tomorrow in a Year saw the further extension and relaxation of their craft, possibly a little too much, the tightest thing on the album being eleven minutes long. And now we're here, with "The Wolf".

I really see this song as a refinement of the Tomorrow in a Year sound, in the vein of the fabulous "Colouring of Pigeons". That song saw the Knife immersing the audience in a rich world via repetition, intensity, and drone-like strings. "The Wolf" does something very similar in less than half that time. There is no pop here, but rather than building up to intensity, Karen hits us with full-on drone immediately, with sound so deep and physical we can't help but shaken by it. In the same sense, similarly unconventional tympani-like drums grace this track but appear infinitely more urgent: the entire song is in full swing about ten seconds in. And although this track is inherently repetitive, it never seems that way.

What's even more interesting is the almost complete lack of "electronic" sounds here. I even hear what seems to sound like a little guitar distortion. While the Knife's crazy attention to detail allowed them to meticulously fill out their skittering electro sound and still be stark, it seems like the use of rich instrumentation has allowed Karen to sound, not stark, but alive in an incredibly detailed, and more importantly, incredibly arresting way, in a way that even the best moments of Silent Shout aren't capable of doing. While SS was a cold statement of nihilistic anticlimax, "The Wolf" seems to be Karen getting at a vision that may be equally pessimistic, but decidedly more human.

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