2014 is the year that electronic music does not want to be electronic music anymore. It’s like all the previous sounds are being treated like the common cold or the hand-me-down car you get at graduation. Many artists have sought to abandon the standard sounds that has made the EDM industry the nearly two billion dollar juggernaut it is today. Where some older music fans may look at the genres just for adolescent tastes, electronic music seeks to peer out of the cocoon a bit.
Knife Party, who are Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, have been taking the scene by storm over the past couple of years with their previous EPs, Rage Valley and Haunted House, and went hard at work to make their debut album, Abandon Ship. After many delays, the album was “leaked” onto iTunes two weeks early before its release date. The title speaks for itself as the apparent “man overboard” syndrome as of late with the Beatport top-ten list. Abandon Ship serves as a reminder to those EPs and builds on them slightly, but perhaps gets lost in the theme of the title.
From the opening of the album, the tracks “Reconnect” and “Boss Mode” are two hard-hitting, electro tracks that we have come to love from the duo. “Reconnect” is very reminiscent of “Power Glove”, relentless and brooding. “Boss Mode” is that sly mix of bass and trap that will ring through a lot of car speakers and sets in the upcoming year. “EDM Trend Machine” is where it gets a little hilarious in my opinion. It’s a standard club track with little drops in between that mirror the trends that have been overused by some of the DJ brethren. “Superstar” is another track that puzzled me. It’s a disco-infused track that I never saw coming, perhaps because Rob Swire was very critical of the style of Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories that was reminiscent of the song. There’s even a sound byte within the song: “WTF is this disco sh*t?” that harkens to the satire of these tracks. When Knife Party is emulating everybody else, they manage to put a comical spin on it, albeit trying to make it their own in the process.
“Begin Again” features the return of Swire on vocals, at least for the first half. This track has a similar build with most house tracks sprinkled with a mix of synthesizer and percussion and is extremely uplifting. I know that everybody is pointing for this to be that “Pendulum” track (Swire and McGrillen’s previous band), but I think this is another take on a modern sound with a KP twist. “404” and “Red Dawn” are standard Knife Party tracks that once again touch on that hard, unrelenting electro complete with Middle Eastern themes and the creative use of computer glitches. With the exception of the tracks that I mentioned, Abandon Ship is an album that I purely expected and that fans will take as another notch in the beat of the twosome.
Ultimately, Abandon Ship is a summary of things that we were already familiar with and touches on where Knife Party could go in the future. Right out the gate, Abandon Ship is in your face, but tends to waver a bit as you get through the entire album. It’s not a bad debut album by any stretch of the imagination, but also didn’t abandon ship; I would more so say that it stayed the course that Swire and McGrillen have already paved. Was the perceived satire funny and needed? I’d say yes, in a genre that might take itself too seriously at times. The album marks consistency, but the familiarity may make it seem that you’ve heard it already.