The seemingly endless wait for a follow up to the sinister, seminal brilliance of ‘Silent Shout’ was always going to make ‘Shaking the Habitual’ more than just another unit for The Knife back-catalogue, and that seven-year gap has only served to incubate the twisted dark matter that lurks in Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer’s brains.

‘Silent Shout’ turned up something macabre and menacing, an album of refined disconnection and pit-black isolation that slowed your heart to a murmur and sucked the breath right out of your lungs. It remains one of the most unlikely mainstream love affairs, but wracked with cloaked intangibles, hidden meanings and doom-laden theatre, it was the offering that’s enabled the duo to beguile and bewitch us ever since.

Karin’s shamanic vocals remain crucial to the unnatural drama that unfolds, taking on Ouija board tones, living in the frequencies between the living and the dead, opening the little dark doors that entice you to lock yourself in. So if ‘Silent Shout’ was the confirmation of The Knife’s signature sound, it’s a spell that continues on the seeping malevolence of ‘Shaking the Habitual’.

The eerie calypso vibes of opener ‘Tooth for An Eye’ emerge as the album’s most clean-cut, forgoing the ghostly ambience in favour of Karin’s drifting yelps and bone-shaking rhythms, but the mist quickly settles on ‘Full of Fire’, with its off-kilter melodies and buzzing percussion – the stuff of B-movie nightmares. It quickly becomes apparent that this is the PG-rated stuff because by the time the creaking piano chords and groaning atmospherics of ‘A Cherry on Top’ stir into life, and the frenzied beats of ‘Without You My Life Would Be Boring’ and ‘Oryx’ garble and scuttle with resident evil, you’re already hoping you aren’t home alone.

As ‘Old Dreams Waiting to be Realised’ rises into the white static hiss of its 19-minute lifespan, you’re firmly in the grips of an absorbing, terrifying journey that mordantly engulfs with every spine-chilling undulation; the background noise and hyper frequencies lurking, circling the room, choking the airwaves, crackling like a neon strip bulb; an atmosphere slowly cultivated by the dark arts of the album’s first half.

Both challenging and beautiful in its dark ingenuity, ‘Old Dreams…’ is also the most ambitious of an incredible collection of calculating horror shows, designed to unsettle and unnerve. It’s a fresh reference point for The Knife’s creepy, dragging melodies and otherworldly drama, whether it’s disturbing in the dim-lit confines of bedroom walls or breathing its voodoo into the gloomy magic of the live show.

It’s a delicious feeling to listen to an album so pointedly on edge, holding your breath, occasionally checking over your shoulder, sat frozen and tracking the shadows…wondering, hoping that all the doors are locked. Their darkest masterpiece.

Read all of this month’s reviews in Loud And Quiet 47, out now

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