Review: The Knife/Planningtorock/Mt. Sims – Tomorrow, In A Year (Rabid/Mute)

The Knife’s latest release, the music for an experimental opera called Tomorrow, In A Year, is definitely not for everyone – even if you are, like me, a diehard Knife fan. That being said, it’s still worth a gander. Read my review for Blurt or check it out below.

At first blush, the concept appears to make perfect sense: The Knife, along with musicians Mt. Sims and Planningtorock and theater group Hotel Pro Forma, score an opera inspired by the life and times of Charles Darwin called Tomorrow, In A Year (Rabid/Mute). Upon listening to the soundtrack release, it soon becomes evident however that this is music most likely best enjoyed during the performance of the actual opera. In other words, some visuals would go a long way towards making these avant-garde, highly experimental, electronic arias and librettos slightly more palatable.

Tomorrow, In A Year’s 90 or so minutes opens appropriately with “Intro,” a series of blips and glitchy electronic twitches that are supposed to represent the earliest spasms of life. From there, “Epochs” provides a throbbing, ambient, bass-filled bottom-end over which vocalist Kristina Wahlin unintelligibly (in Swedish, perhaps?) warbles lyrics like, “The animal carcasses and skeletons would be entombed / A step formed terrace succession.” Take that, intelligent designers! “Upheaved” is just as bizarre and radical, but it’s given some form by the staccato stabbing of syllables sung by Wahlin and Laerke Winther: “Con-stant earth-quakes / The won-der-ful for-orce…” Throughout, the music is occasionally recognizable as the work of The Knife, one of the most innovative and appealing purveyors of dark electronic pop working today. “Variation of Birds,” comprised of several minutes of shrieking feedback-style noise, may have more in common with a band like Wolf Eyes. But The Knife’s fingerprints are all over “Colouring of Pigeons,” a mid-tempo orchestral pop track that begins with dislocated vocal sounds and culminates in Karin Andersson’s eerily effective singing. This could just have easily been on outtake from last year’s Fever Ray album (or from Simon Le Bon’s 1980s Arcadia project).

It might prove hard for anyone but the most diehard Knife fans to sit through an entire album of this music (besides the breezy, buoyant techno of a track like “Seeds”). But it’s evident that those involved have succeeded in creating something unique and boldly experimental while still adhering to the basic tenants and form of opera. The technique and instrumentation differ wildly from the norm (if there is such a thing nowadays), but at its core Tomorrow, In A Year goes through all the paces of this form of dramatic storytelling.

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