Knife in the Water
Cut the Cord
Knife in the Water are forever working on the ultimate subtraction problem. Every release gradually hones their menacing sounds down closer to the point of silence. The victim this time: Bill McCulloch’s pedal steel. Whereas on Red River the instrument’s languid, distended textures pushed out the album’s borders and drew in darkness, Cut the Cord all but banishes those sounds to the fringes while not even attempting to fill the void. The oppressive feeling created by the silence, that something is somehow missing, becomes the band’s most powerful and interesting aspect. “Warped Pearls” and “Golden Calf Highway” in particular maintain a sweeping Morricone grandeur even though both songs consist primarily of one acoustic guitar, minimal, hushed drums and occasional incidental instruments. Knife manages to pull this off because of their ability to manipulate the emptiness beautifully.
Songwriter Aaron Blount’s lyrics have similarly undergone a change this time around. Gone are the 1950s crime novellas, replaced by surreal, imagery-based moments like: “I found you in the Village of fireworks / Stuck in the lightning” (“Village Fireworks”), and the psychedelic beat poetry of “Warped Pearls”: “Insects sing for her, tell the temperature / From the big bang on until the stars are gone.”
As a whole, the album is a wonderful, understated shift in sound without the slightest sacrifice in mood or tone. There are so few bands whose idea of evolving their music means minimizing their sound. Duluth’s slow-core progenitors Low are the only suitable example I can currently think of, and that’s excellent company for any band to be in.