Archive for the ‘The Knife’ Category


This album (Benevento’s second) with the confusing title is actually a (mostly) covers album.  Marco takes some familiar (to me) and some unfamiliar (to me) songs and turns them into instrumental versions using piano (and more), bass (from Reed Mathis) and drums.

The first song is My Morning Jacket’s “Golden.”  The melody is instantly recognizable and bouncy and fun.  Matt Chamberlain provides drums, which are skittery and complicated but never loud. Until the end when the songs starts to float away with trippy synths and some wild drumming.

“Now They’re Writing Music” is an original piece that switches between synth and piano and features Chamberlain and Andrew Barr on drums.

“Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” is a Leonard Cohen song.  It’s produced as if it’s on an old scratchy record with echoing bass and drums over the scratchy piano.  Barr is on drums.

“Mephisto” is an original, a slow jazzy number with a hummable melody and Chamberlain on drums.

“Twin Killers” is a Deerhoof song.  Appropriately, it has some riotous drums (from Barr who is on the next two songs as well).  It’s longer than the original because it features a cacophonies middle section that is just insane.  But Benevento’s faithful reproduction of the melody line makes this really catchy.

“Call Home” is a pretty lullaby.  It’s an original with soft keys and a baby cooing.

“Heartbeats” is the Jose Gonzales/The Knife song.  The main low riff sounds like its on the bass and then Marco plays the familiar lead melody with all kinds of fuzz thrown over the song.

“Sing It Again” is a mellow song from Beck off of Mutations.  I don’t really know it that well but this version is very pretty and simple.

A highlight of the album is this really fun version of Led Zeppelin’s “Friends.”  It’s immediately recognizable and yet different somehow.  Its full of raucous paying from all three especially when Benevento ads the sinister synths near the end.  Chamberlain plays up a storm on the drums.

The final song is George Harrison’s “Run of the Mill.”  I don’t know the original, but this is a jazzy song with lot of piano runs from Marco and some restrained drumming from Chamberlain.

This is a pretty solid introduction to Benevento’s music, although his albums definitely get better once he starts writing his own songs with words.

[READ: March 14, 2021] “Surrounded by Sleep”

Ajay was ten years old.  His family lived in Queens (having moved from India two years earlier).  He and his older brother, Amam, were in Virginia visiting his aunt and uncle.  One morning Aman was swimming in the pool.  He dove in and hit his head on the cement bottom.  He was on the bottom of the pool for several minutes before anyone noticed.

His parents were not terribly religious, but as Amar lay in a coma in the hospital, his mother began to pray regularly.  She also prostrated herself and fasted.

At first Ajay thought “her attempts to sway God were not so different from Ajay’s performing somersaults to amuse his aunt.”  Then Ajay knelt before the altar and drew in the carpet an Om, a crucifix, a Star of David and the Superman logo.

When his mother saw him praying, she asked what he prayed for.  He told her for a 100 on his math test. His mother said “What if God said you can have he math grade but then Aman will have to be sick a little while longer? …   When I was sick as a girl, your Uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”

Ajay replied, quite rightly, “If I failed the math test and told you that story you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 10, 2017] Marco Benevento

2017-02-10-23-18-04Back in August I saw Marco Benevento open for The Claypool-Lennon Delirium.  I didn’t know Marco, but his show was so much fun I promised myself I’d see him again.  So I was pretty psyched to see that he was playing at this venue.

Marco’s show back in August was just so much fun–I had arrived late, after being caught in traffic, and within minutes he had totally uplifted my mood.

So I was thrilled to find the Ardmore such a small venue where I could get up so close–check out the bottom of the page for the up close look at his modified piano.  And when he show began, I was right up at the front of the stage.

2017-02-10-22-12-11In addition to Marco, who is a fantastic entertainer, his band consists of drummer Andy Borger (whose drum set includes a cowbell and what looks like the alarm bell from a school) and my new favorite bassist Karina Rykman.  2017-02-10-23-37-07It was actually Rykman who first won me over back in August because she was just so happy.  I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone have so much joy playing on stage before.  And this show was exactly the same.  Of course it helps that she’s a great bassist with an amazing sound.  She doesn’t do a lot of fancy stuff, but her groove is spot on.

The three of them came out and started playing the suite from The Story of Fred Short.  It’s a series of seven interlocking songs with a great groove and a lot of room to jam.   I walked in the middle of this suite when I saw them this summer and I was really excited to hear it again.  I love the bass lines and, in this case, the whistle in “Walking with Tyrone.” (more…)

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CV1_TNY_02_25_13Ulriksen.inddSOUNDTRACK: THE KNIFE-Shaking the Habitual (2013).

theknife2Since I reviewed the 19 minute song from this album yesterday I thought I’d check out the rest of the disc (still a handful).  I kept bearing in mind that The Knife are pretty much a dance duo.  So this departure is not only radical, it pretty much undercuts the kind of music they make.  The progress is probably exciting but I imagine fans would turn away in droves.  I wonder how this record will play out for them in the long run.  Incidentally, I wasn’t a fan before, so I don’t really have a horse in this race.

“A Tooth for an Eye” opens the record with an interesting percussion sound an a pulsing keyboard melody.  The keening vocals come in sounding weird and distant and more than a little eerie.  “Full of Fire” is a 9-minute song with a weird skittery “melody” that seems to float above the battered mechanical “drum.”  The whispered vocals are strained and also a little creepy.  The middle section has the skittery music jump around while the vocals get even more processed—making it simultaneously more friendly and less so.  It’s probably the coolest weird song on the disc, with parts that are catchy and interesting and parts that are just peculiar.  This is the single, by the way.

“A Cherry on Top” is 8 minutes of reasonable quietude, with the second half introducing an autoharp.  It’s certainly the most mellow thing on the disc.  Although it’s not exactly relaxing.  “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” seems like it should be the single—it is propulsive and while the vocals are certainly odd, they are the most conventional thing on the album.  “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” has big electronic pulsing drums and whispered vocals.  It’s a fairly normal sounding song (at least for this album), and could easily play in a goth club.

“Crake” is 55 second of squalling feedback.  The album also has “Oryx” which is 37 second of wailing noise.  In between is the 10 minute “Raging Lung” which is not available on Spotify.  “Networking” a skittering beat with a second beat that may just be a sample of a person making noise in his or her throat.  The “voices” get stranger throughout the song, keening, twisting and spinning, reminiscent of The Art of Noise.

“Stay Out Here” is a ten minute song.  It starts with a fairly standard electronic drumbeat.  Whispered vocals come in giving it a kind of Nine Inch Nails vibe, until the female vocals come in (and are quickly manipulated to sound kind of male).  The switch from male and female vocals is interesting, giving it an almost modern sounding Dead Can Dance feel.

“Fracking Fluid Injection” has sounds like scraping, rusted gates as the beat with sampled voices overlaid.  Again, this is nearly 10 minute long.  The problem with things like this, aside from their relative tediousness, is that they aren’t all that original.  Now originality is nothing to hold a band to, we all know, but if you’re going to do non-form sounds that are echoed with little else to it, it would be more interesting if there was something original to pin to it.  “Ready to Lose” ends the album with a steady beat and a pretty standard vocal line (even if the voices are processed).

So this album us a pretty radical departure for the band and it’s a pretty radical departure for dance music as a whole.  I’m curious to see if this will lead to a anything or if this will be their one weird album.

[READ: April 15, 2013] “The Furies”

The story opens with a rather creepy man stating at his wedding reception that he is in an exclusive club: “There are not too many men who can say that they’re older than their father-in-law.” Ew.  He was fifty-eight, his new wife 31.  His father-in-law is 56.  The father-in-law seems okay with this, but really how could he be?

Ray is a dentist and his new wife, Shelly, had been his hygienist for years.  When Shelly told him she was thinking of getting a new job, he professed his love for her, and informed his wife, Angie that he was in love with Shelly.  Angie took it badly, but he was surprised when she seemed mad that he didn’t do this years earlier while she still had a chance to meet someone (rather than being distraught that he was leaving her).  As a parting shot she says that she wishes him ill.  And she hope he suffers with the woman who took him from her.

But they had no children, just assets, and things were divided evenly and cleanly.  And he thanked his lucky starts to be with a new woman, someone who was fun and so different from his first wife. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_04_01_13Gutierez.inddSOUNDTRACK: THE KNIFE-“Old Dreams Waiting to be Realized” (2013).

theknife With the release of The Knife’s new album, the New Yorker review that I mentioned yesterday pointed out just how radically different this new disc is from the synth pop of yore.  Sasha Frere-Jones talked about the weird instrumentation that they use (and made themselves) and the processed vocals that often defy gender.  But he mostly focused on this, a 19 minute song.

What’s so radically different for The Knife is that the song isn’t really a song so much as a series of slow washes of keyboards which rise and fall.  There’s no melody at all and no singing either.  It’s basically an uneasy ambient song–quite a departure from the three-minute pop of “Heartbeats.”  There’s also a bunch of percussion, also seemingly random.  It sounds like a bleak landscape–the moon perhaps.

At around 10 minutes, the washes of sound (which have been pretty constant and low volume) are eclipsed by a processed steel drum sound which play a little melody and just as quickly goes away.  Helicopter-ish sounds come to the fore around 13 minutes.  And that louder noise stays with us for a couple of minutes until it is replaced by a very mechanical-sounding moaning.

After 19 minutes of this, it simply vanishes leaving a minute or so of silence at the end of the track.  You’re not going to get too many fans playing music like that.

 [READ: April 28, 2013] “Long Way Home”

In this piece, Sedaris revisits a moment that has got to be a major fear for a lot of people—the theft of a passport.  Sedaris has a British passport with an Indefinite Leave to Remain sticker on it.  This basically allows him (and partner Hugh) freedom to come and go as they please in the UK—a handy thing for a traveling author.  When the passport is stolen, it means that rather than waltzing back home, he has to go through the same old scrutiny (a writer, eh?) and very real threats that they could simply not allow him back in.

Evidently receiving this sticker is a laborious process not for the faint of heart (and not for those whose grasp of English is not perfect).  Which is why David let Hugh do all the prep work for it (although David did ace the test).  There’s a very funny sequence in which he wonders how non Westerners might deal with the question, “How might you stop young people playing tricks on you at Halloween?”  Needless to say, not having that sticker was a major hassle, but reapplying for it meant surrendering the new passport for several months while bureaucracy got its sticker together.  Which is what he eventually had to do. (more…)

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Burn-This-House-175x250SOUNDTRACK: THE KNIFE-“Heartbeats” (2002).


I learned of this song from the José González cover that was featured in the (very cool) Sony video with the bouncing balls.  The song turned me on to González, but not necessarily the song itself.  I knew The Knife did the original  and I remember when I first heard it, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the González version.

It’s been a few years and there’s a new The Knife album out and in the New Yorker review of it Sasha Frere-Jones mentioned this song again.  So I wanted to listen to it without the cover so prominent.  And indeed, the González cover is quite straightforward (acoustic guitar rather than mega synth, but otherwise pretty spot on). The Knife’s version is very retro synth-sounding .  It reminds me of a wacky 80s song.  Or perhaps a 2000’s Europop song.

The vocals are high-pitched and a wee bit over the top, but all in all it’s very catchy.  Frere-Jones said that The Knife version was very popular but evidently I didn’t travel in those circles because I don’t recognize it as being huge.

And I still like José’s version better.

I know it’s not really cool to show the video of the cover version when I’m talking about the original, and it’s really not that cool to use a commercial as a video, but it is still very fun to watch.

[READ: April 30, 2013] Burn This House

For the last day of April, the last day of poetry month, I read a new book of poetry that came across my desk today.  This is Kelly Davio’s first collection.  She is an MFA and quite an accomplished poet (managing editor and Pushcart nominee).  I also thought that I would see if she was a “modern, weird” poet or a more traditional one (I secretly hoped for more traditional as I’d burnt out on wacky ones).  For the most part she is more traditional and I liked most of her poems quite a lot.

The book was divided into five sections.  And I have to admit that the final few sections contained poems which seems a little forced to me (more on that later).  For it was in the early pages that I thought the poetry was most magnificent.

Although when I first started reading I was afraid that the poetry was going to be ponderous without enough concrete detail.  Like in “auguries” which showed a series of potential omens (Davio seems to have a thing with birds crashing into windows) which were effective, but I didn’t like the ending: “To what /significance such eroded things?” It seemed too vague to be powerful.

But the poems that came right after were just wonderful with detail like in “The First Lines” which had this description of a scarecrow: (more…)

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