Knife Party: An Overview

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Knife Party are a weird story. It seems whenever Rob Swire tries something, he immidiately moves to something else. This technique can lead to a very diverse catalogue, but that’s not really what happens in this case. It seems Swire is more afraid of repeating himself than wanting to explore new ground, He shouldn’t be. Both Pendulum and Knife Party mastered their genres. While he abandoned Pendulum soon enough before they will lose their personality, Knife Party was different.

It started well enough. Their first two EP’s were released in the span of 2011-12. This was the beginning of Brostep’s traditional sound, a little before wild experimentation became common. The dominating sounds were mid-range bass wobbles and laser-like blips. Adding a little melody was common, but they always used abrasive sounds for that.

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The first EP mastered that style. The scene had a lot of talented producers but no one matched Skrillex. No one could make their Brostep as ridiculous as his. His music was almost a self-parody. Knife Party sounded exactly like Skrillex but got it right. “Fire Hive” either screams in your ear or bass-talks. “Destroy Them With Lazers” has bass roars and lazer sounds.

It was almost a classic. It could have been, actually. Knife Party also released a DJ mix with some unreleased tracks which were just as good. There’s no reason not to release “The Box” or “Suffer”. The dumbest decision was to scrap “Zoology” which featured Skrillex. There’s a full-length version which is possible the original and not just a fanmade remake. Anyway, that song epitomizes what was so good about the scene. It had the funky rhythm of Moombahton but with the Heavy Metal aggression of Brostep.

Rage Valley was even better. Every song tackled a different genre and made everything around it feel a little pointless. “Centipede” is ridiculously heavy and it’s not actually loud. It’s just the BOOM at the beginning of the drop that makes it so intense. “Bonfire” was a hit that deserved all the hype. It switches constantly from roars, mid-range and melodic synths. Every little part is catchy on its own, and the alternating between them gives it a hyperactive energy. The sound of the drums is also perfect. Although “Sleaze” isn’t as good as “Zoology”, it first showed that Knife Party could make bangers without being loud.

Things started go downhill with Haunted House. It’s a great EP, but this is where Rob Swire focused on Not Being Brostep rather than making good music. The result is trend-hopping. It’s not so bad here because “LRAD” destroys almost every other Big Room track. It’s hard to think of a Big Room track that matches it and isn’t made by a Brostep artist. There’s “Wizard” and “Epic”, but that’s it. The VIP mix of “Internet Friends” also destroys the original. It adds more to the first drop and adds a Brostep one at the end. If you don’t count “Zoology” because it’s unreleased, then that’s their masterpiece.

Abandon Ship was where Rob Swire got completely lost. There were some traditional tracks there. There was some experimental tracks that kept the aggression. “404”, for example, is a weirder version of Big Room that’s pure genius. A lot of the tracks see Knife Party hopping on trends that aren’t very good, or they don’t give them a new spin.

“EDM Trend Machine” bangs, but there’s nothing unique or charming about it. It’s a very straightforward Deep House track. “Begin Again” and “Red Dawn” tackle worse trends. The former is an Avicii rip-off that’s saved only because of SWire’s vocals and the structure. The second is an attempt to stick a few samples from ethnic music to make us think it’s original. It sounds like a David Guetta B-Side (only with better production).

All of it bangs (except “DIMH” which has no point), but it saw Knife Party shedding their ‘seizure music’ and replacing it with, what exactly? Inoffensive dance music? I know that loudness isn’t actually praised in EDM. The best-selling tracks in Beatport are rarely weird or inventive or ridiculous. It’s mostly a typical House track with those annoying Melbourne Bounce sounds. It’s something that’s kind of rhythmic, kind of melodic but never anything that will distract you from staring at bouncing tits.

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Why did Knife Party try to appeal to him, making dance music that’s suited to fade to the background? Their latest EP is the worst offender. For some moronic reason they decided their collaboration with Tom Morello will be on his album (We already heard that promise) and replaced it with a JAUZ remix. They should’ve kept the remix and get rid of “Kraken” or “PLUR Police”. If Abandon Ship had some quirky or odd moments,this has none. The drops here are exactly the same, only using slightly different notes. The wobbles and bass plucks of “Parliament Funk” are great, but that’s one song out of 3. They couldn’t even make a different second drop.

I don’t get it. I understand getting disillusioned with a scene. Many artists moved away from these sounds, but they expanded their horizons. Skrillex, Kill the Noise, Dillon Francis and even Barely Alive aren’t just about 140 BPM drops with bass growls. Dillon and KTN actually released average LP’s, but they pushed themselves and tried new ideas. KTN mixed his bass growls with Deep House or did a weird Disco track. Dillon tried his hand at producing Pop music and it worked.

Knife Party have very high levels of production. As generic as “PLUR Police” is, it still sounds better than anything like it. I hope the new EP was just a transition record, something they had to get out of their system. Their previous material is some of the best Bass Music has to offer. For all of Rob’s cynicism, that’s his scene. There’s no reason to move away from it. Aggression may dominate, but experimentation is encouraged. The top labels have plenty of weird artists in them. Never Say Die did sign LAXX after all. Hopefully, Knife Party will come back to themselves. If not, we still got 3 classic EP’s and a decent LP.

Next up: Top 10 Knife Party songs.

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Knife Party – Abandon Ship

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There are two ways to view this album, both of which are related. There’s an attempt to follow the blueprint for every good dance album. Artists that follow this blueprint make sure that first and foremost their tracks bang, and then surround them with quirks and amusing ideas to make them memorable. There’s also an attempt at a statement-making album. Knife Party tells us they are beyond the Bass Music scene. Why would they try to go beyond it is a mystery. It’s a scene that spawned LAXX, Skrillex, Excision, MUST DIE! and Barely Alive. Unlike the bland European house that Knife Party borrows from them a bit, Bass Music artists actually understand how dance music works.

Either way, this statement is a failure. Knife Party’s version of being ‘experimental’ is merely avoiding Brostep. Many of the ideas they replace the Brostep with are not only less original, but are not worth exploring. “Red Dawn” relies on a Middle Eastern melody, and this one-note idea makes it sound like a DJ tool by some Martin Garrix clone. The melodic “Kaledioscope” is just a less progressive Orbital, and “Begin Again” is Hardwell or Avicii with better vocals. “EDM Trend Machine” doesn’t add anything to the modern Deep House formula. The snippet of Brostep and Big Room before the drop doesn’t change much. It’s barely a second, so it doesn’t leave any effect. This idea was later improved on by Getter’s “Dubstep Is Dead”, who used this structure much more effectively. He also added a Hardstyle drop.

Another problem with these songs is that Knife Party operates in an area they don’t feel comfortable with and show little understanding of it. “Going soft” seems radical for an artist as aggressive as Knife Party, but the aggressive tracks sound much more inspired. It makes you wonder if Rob Swire only churned “Kaledioscope” just to say that he can do more than make noise, but why would he avoid making loud noises if this is where he’s most inspired? “404”, “Micropenis” and “Boss Mode” are just as aggressive as anything by Excision, and this time the quirks actually work. There’s a chiptune breakdown in the middle of “Micropenis” that sounds jarring at first, but actually fits in such overblown music. “Boss Mode” is a Drumstep track masquerading as Twerk. “404” is pure mayhem. The melodic build-up is the only thing stable about. Error sounds, glitches and a Big Room drop that takes the genre to its extreme. Even their attempt at Disco in “Superstar” sounds like they added a little funk to “404” instead of borrowing their ideas from Daft Punk. Disco never had such hard drums.

Rob SWire’s attempts at originality failed, but it barely harms the quality of Abandon Ship. As a dance album, it’s fantastic. Every single track here is a banger. The aggressive tracks are much stronger than the softer ones, but even the soft ones are good enough to not let the album down. It’s a testament to Knife Party’s talents that “Begin Again” is as a good as it is. Give it to Hardwell or Avicii or Armin Van Something, and you’d get white noise. In the hands of Knife Party, this style of melodic house sounds like it has a future. It’s not just Rob’s vocals. When the drop comes, it’s focused more on an uplifting atmosphere, and it doesn’t rely just on its drop anyway. The drop in “EDM Trend Machine” is being done to death, but there’s still a great bassline there. Only “D.I.M.H.” is bad. It’s a bland, melodic track that is supposed to be ‘traditional’. If it is, I’m glad Leftfield and Underworld destroyed that trash. There’s no way the people behind “Give It Up” made such a shoddy production job.

Once you get over the pretense that this album is more original than its peers, it’s a great dance album that gets everything right. Knife Party’s transition to album should’ve come earlier. Abandon Ship actually feels too small. It could definitely use a few more tracks, perhaps an actual drum and bass one or another moombahton. Despite Rob Swire’s attempt, Abandon Ship belongs to the Bass Music section and another example of how exciting and underrated that genre is. Just forget about “D.I.M.H.”.

3.5 abandoned ships out of 5