Taking some of their best tracks and breaking them down, the remix EP Shaken-Up Versions offers an alternate take on eight of The Knife’s songs. With tracks like the moody “Silent Shout” and the bouncy “Bird” stripped of their defining elements, the mini-album mostly just serves to remind how fantastic the source material is. Karin Dreijer Andersson’s vocals are laid bare over simplistic beats and shrill synthesizers. It’s immediately jarring. The complex, jam-inspired sounds of Shaking the Habitual are broken down to their core, and the outré pop of Silent Shout is stripped of its character.
This major alteration initially makes for an enthralling listen, but as soon as the second track begins, it’s evident that each succeeding song will sound almost exactly like the last. The shattered remnants of the original tracks drift throughout each reworking, like a compilation of greatest hits missing what made them so great. It’s frustrating, but there’s still enjoyment to be had; it just pales in comparison to the enjoyment found in the originals.
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The stark minimalism makes for some interesting moments, particularly on the bare-bones Shaking the Habitual reworks. The re-imaginings of tracks from The Knife’s most recent album prove to be the most fruitful (particularly “Without You My Life Would Be Boring”), as they tend to stay close to the sound of the originals. Songs from older records don’t fare quite as well. Overall, the record either fails to spice up the original material, or it breaks it down to an overly skeletal form.
From track to track, each sound morphs into a swirling, cacophonous monotony. The lyrics, the shadows of melodies, and Andersson’s vocals are still present; the passion, instrumental density, and lasting impact, however, are more or less absent. Whether it’s some kind of clever message hidden behind apparent laziness or a rushed effort to increase awareness of their upcoming tour, there’s a nagging sense that something incredibly vital is missing. The Knife are better than this, and the record continually makes this obvious. It’s best to approach The Knife’s Shaken-Up Versions with caution, even though the blade has dulled this time around.
Essential Tracks: “Without You My Life Would Be Boring (Shaken-Up Version)”