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by Philip Sherburne

February 1, 2013

Swedish Goth Mafia

by Philip Sherburne  |  February 1, 2013

The Knife have a new single, "Full of Fire," out this week, and if you're anything like me, that's pretty much the most exciting news possible. What's even better -- at least, if you're anything like me -- is that the Swedish duo sounds more ominous than ever. After their last album, the Darwin-themed opera Tomorrow, In a Year -- which was, let's face it, kind of a slog to get through -- they've dived headfirst back into the supple electronic textures and menacing machine rhythms of 2006 breakout Silent Shout. But this new song is hardly Silent Shout redux: It sounds grittier and more unstable, part free-improv electronics and part bunker-busting techno. You can hear how Olof Dreijer has honed his dancefloor chops with his Oni Ayhun project, and Karin Dreijer-Andersson (aka Fever Ray) is as commanding a presence as ever, groaning and whispering and morphing from beast to robot and back again.

Crow masks aside, The Knife aren't really Goths, of course, but their exquisite gloom and literate world view certainly owe plenty to the more adventurous gothic and industrial acts of yore -- not the frightwig-and-eyeliner set so much as apocalyptic experimentalists like Throbbing Gristle and Chris & Cosey. They're also representative of a dynamic strain of Swedish electronic music that's a world away from dance pop standard-bearers like Avicii and the Swedish House Mafia. With invariably futuristic sonics and a stern, uncompromising approach, artists like Roll the Dice; Glasser coproducers Van Rivers and The Subliminal Kid; Skudge; MRSK; and the crew around the Kontra Musik label are responsible for some of the planet's most vital electronic music right now.

To mark The Knife's triumphant return -- and to tide us over until their new album finally comes out in April -- I've put together a playlist highlighting the darker, slipperier side of Swedish electronic music, from droning ambient to deconstructed techno to dubbed-out rave-ups. Along with tracks from all of the aforementioned artists, it also includes three long, mind-bending cuts from Oni Ayhun himself. So dim the lights and get your (non-ironic) Goth on.

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