Album Review: Knifeworld – “Bottled Out Of Eden”
The quirky psych-prog octet are back with their most accessible release to date. If you’re unfamiliar with Knifeworld, they’re led by psych-rock hero Kavus Torabi (Cardiacs, Monsoon Bassoon, Gong) and play a brand of music which is, quite frankly, rather difficult to describe. Think bi-polar psychedelic alt-prog-rock, with honking horns, sweeping harmonies and more twists than if you were attempting to play Twister while doing the twist.
Their previous release (2014’s The Unravelling) was a sprawling, atmospheric marvel which took over a year to complete, but in contrast, Bottled Out Of Eden was recorded in nine days, a move which Torabi has said aims for a rawer more live sound. He has also relinquished control of production to long-time associate Bob Drake. The end result is an album which is just as compelling, but much more immediate, than its predecessors.
It’s a comparatively upbeat sounding release, though don’t let that fool you – the underlying menace and haunting unease are still present, they’re just a little more subtle. Take cosmic opener High/Aflame – the unsettling initial Torabi vocal/drone combination contrasts with Mel Wood’s beautiful vocals and the honking horns to create a track which is both joyous and has enough hidden mischief to keep you coming back for more.
While Knifeworld have crafted something accessible, that’s not to say they’ve reigned in their tendency towards sweeping, expansive, psychedelic madness. It’s just a little more focused, so when the craziness begins it’s all the more effective and engaging. Take the wonderfully titled I Must Set Fire To Your Portrait, probably the most out-there track on the album. Taken alone it’s brilliant – riffy, progressive and complex. But in the context of the album as a whole, surrounded by tracks which showcase other elements of Knifeworld’s kaleidoscopic musical maelstrom, it’s elevated to another level.
Across these songs you’ll find a whole host of influences and sounds – most other bands would dream of recording tracks so ambitious, varied and well-written. There’s the folk-inspired Foul Temple, the calm-yet-oh-so-dramatic A Dream About A Dream and the harmonic introspective Secret Words. Knifeworld really utilise their musical ability and variety to much greater effect than on previous releases. This makes it feel more like a ‘full band’ release, and may have something to do with the live recording approach.
Every track is catchy, well-written and distinctive – this is an album littered with subtle quirks and musical nuances which only become apparent after repeated listens. The arrangements are lush and it sounds vast. Simply put, no-one sounds like Knifeworld, and this is arguably their best release to date.
Knifeworld are able to craft a rich, musical tapestry which most bands would only dream of, yet on Bottled Out Of Eden they manage to do this in a more refined, accessible way than ever before. It's exceptional, a real album of the year contender for me.