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A celebration with The Knife: Realizing surrealism

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The Knife is a Swedish electronic group consisting of siblings, Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer. The duo is one of the most critically acclaimed synthpop bands of all-time, despite its lukewarm relationship with the media. Feelings of enmity toward the music industry's male dominance have led to The Knife boycotting award ceremonies and spurning honors, perhaps most notably exhibited when the band was decorated with six Grammis—the Swedish version of the Grammys—in 2006 and didn’t even attend.

Dreijer and Dreijer Andersson have shirked public appearances in general, and have opted to don Venetian bird masks in the rare occasions that they actually occur. One might think that this unwillingness to appear publicly uncloaked is derived from a deeper fear of ignominy, but it may rather be rooted in a love of Lynchian surrealism—a style typified by dream imagery and meticulous sound design—as Dreijer Andersson has cited David Lynch and films like Donnie Darko (not done by Lynch, but nonetheless equally entrenched in the shrouded fringes of reality) as integral inspirations. Indeed, the concept of veiling a true self is present in both works by Lynch and in Richard Kelly’s sci-fi mystery. Those influences have resulted in a surrealistic intrigue that is manifested in The Knife's music, and its effect was palpable in the vibrant, paint-drenched milieu of Boston’s House of Blues this past Tuesday night.

The show was a sold out, multi-sensory, synthpop extravaganza. For most of it, Dreijer (soundmaker and deejay) and Dreijer Andersson (vocalist) were perched at the top of stage left, providing a backdrop for the visual components of the performance: an impressive lightshow that spotlighted (literally) an entire troupe of dancers dressed in sweat suits. The entourage of dancers was an interpretive vanguard for the signature synthpop of the siblings. They moved together to the music with unconventional, yet naturally mellifluous movements. The group’s unbridled enjoyment was in no way marred by the noticeable physical exertion of their dance; they stood at the front of the stage after each song appreciating the audience’s appreciation with gracious smiles behind heavy breath.

The set was eventually punctuated by a fiercely empowering poem ferociously delivered by one of the dancers. The presentation provided a solid reprieve to the band while fueling the audience with rhetoric bathed in ethical, unabashed sexuality. The Knife then resumed its set, concluding with an elongated rendition of “Silent Shout,” the titular song of Pitchfork’s “Best Album of 2006.” The dancers continued their tremendous efforts throughout the song by urging Boston to dance as hard as they could for as long as they could—they themselves of course matched and surpassed our intensity, whirling about independently in their first non-choreographed dance of the night. The lack of synchronization highlighted the aleatory movement of the individual, making the dance more accessible and spurring the audience’s own cavorts and gambols. After the song's conclusion, The Knife ended its rare visit to Boston with waves and bows to a grateful audience. The band's public appearances are still infrequent—and its sparse tour reflects that—so don’t miss an opportunity to experience a visit from The Knife.

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