KNIFEWORLD - The Unravelling
If there was ever a criminally underrated band, it must have been The Monsoon Bassoon, whose intricate prog math rock was a revolutionary bright spot in the mid to late Nineties. But as happens so often, things werenít meant to last, so that band leader Kavus Torabi decided to join legendary British prunk band Cardiacs in the early years of the millennium. That didnít last long either, due to tragic heath developments of their founder Tim Smith. But again, Torabi didnít stay idle longer, and has currently his band Knifeworld and also plays and composes for Guapo and Gong.
Knifeworldís first album in 2009 was still more or less a solo album, but he soon assembled a large host of musicians, so that currently, on the second longplayer The Unravelling, the band plays as an octet, with such varied instruments as guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, percussion, bassoon, clarinet and all kinds of saxophones. Knifeworld is sharing members with such illustrious bands as Chrome Hoof, Sidi Bou Said and formerly North Sea Radio Orchestra.
To describe the bandís sound is next to impossible. Iranian born Torabi refuses to limit himself to one single musical genre, and it shows. First of all the bandís music combines the ultra-progressive with the super-catchy, and especially the shared vocals between the band founder and former Sidi Bou Said member Melanie Woods create a trademark sound. The male vocals have a very melodic and charming inflection, like Brit pop having suddenly discovered avant-garde music, and Ms Woods sounds as English as is humanly possible, thus fitting perfectly well her musical partner. The many woodwind instruments of course also leave an impression, with the saxophones occasionally hinting at King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator, while the bassoon naturally recalls the early days of The Monsoon Bassoon, and also the divine Henry Cow, where the late Lindsay Cooper was a pioneering force of bringing that unusual instrument into the sound of rock music.
Now I have written a lot about the band but not that much about the album yet. I somehow see the album as divided into two halves, where the first one is offering mostly the bandís more vivid side, without neglecting their melancholic side though. The opener I Can Teach You How To Lose A Fight is a perfect example of the bandís sound, with angular guitar lines, atmospheric keyboards, multilayered vocals, woodwind intermezzos and incredible melodic developments that will leave you speechless. While Melanie Woodsí performance has this certain inherent sadness, Kavus Torabi is no stranger to drama. The Orphanage is atypically short, with only one and a half minute running time, showing off a mix between alternative, punk and prog, not unlike some Cardiacs songs. Send Him Seaworthy is once again a more sedate piece, with pretty classical bassoon stuff, which doesnít prevent the band to add some truly wonderful vocal lines that once again proves that the Brits have mastered this skill since the early Sixties thanks to the Beatles. Donít Land On Me is an eight minute long extravaganza that has been pre-released on the bandís Bandcamp page before the album release. This might be the best place to start listening to Knifeworld, as never before they have sounded so varied, combining the crazy jazz stuff with mellow prog, never letting go of their wondrous melodies, and even adding some of the soul funk that might have come from their ties to Chrome Hoof.
The albumís second half has more of a gothic feeling, and I donít mean gothic as in gothic rock, but rather when it comes to the overall atmosphere. The Skulls We Buried Have Regrown Their Eyes starts simply enough, adding layer upon layer of instruments, never really changing much the melody, but still able to add an incredible amount of tension. Destroy The World We Love feels a little more aggressive, possibly because the guitar has a more leading role while the woodwinds this time rather serve the purpose of the song. This Empty Room Once Was Alive is a very dark and gloomy track, with a creepy strings part and for once not showing off the otherwise often catchy choruses. The second half ends, just like the first part, with a longer track. The nine minute long Iím Hiding Behind My Eyes is another tour de force, maybe not as lively as the preceding epic, but still using skilfully its entire length to build a goosebumps inducing prog epic.
And that was already the second album by Knifeworld. If The Unravelling has one drawback, it is definitely its length. Forty-five minutes is actually a rather normal running time for a longplayer, but when the quality is so high, it really pain the listener when the journey is already over. I also may have liked the albumís first half a little better than the second one, but that doesnít prevent this from being an outstanding masterpiece. By combining progressive rock, alternative, punk, a little bit of metal and contemporary classical music into their very own brew, Knifeworld have shown that they are a bunch of ultra-developed and cultured musicians. Of course, they are mostly in their forties, and have had time to listen to and understand many kinds of music, and they have consequently made the best in turning all their influences into something quite unique. Right now there is no single band that can come up with such an original sound as Knifeworld!