Knife Party offers a 12-track satirical commentary with ‘Abandon Ship’ [Album Review]
Knife Party slipped into the abyss at the end of last year, and during their period of silence, the pair of producers were hard at work putting together a full-length debut record that has finally reached the wire. The final product, Abandon Ship, reintroduces the former Pendulum members with somewhat comical flair as their album kicks the door off its hinges with 12 genre-spanning selections. But rather than merely resuming their spot atop the dance music hierarchy, Knife Party took the opportunity to point their new music in a commentary fashion, weighing in on the dance music industry as a whole.
The album’s opener, “Reconnect” introduces the LP with a sharp message. “Through every shipwreck comes the chance to begin again,” explains the narrative intro as Knife Party begins their story. The brief introduction sets the perfect precedent for the rest of the album as the Aussie duo return to offer their thoughts on the state of dance music.
“Resistance” is quintessential Knife Party with growling electro-heavy synths and squealing lasers. Knife Party is officially back in action, kicking off their album with a jolting dose of high-octane electro-house. Minimal sample additions accentuate the track, with the simple “This is a knife” exclamation bringing about two piercing breaks.
“Boss Mode,” one of the earliest cuts from the album, delivers a shoulder-shaking, upbeat groove, pulling trap elements and injecting them into a contemporary take on drum n’ bass. Thundering kick drums drive the tune forward as the stomping beat dips and wiggles across multiple bass music sub-genres. Knife Party asserts their undeniable dominance with “Boss Mode,” exploiting a slightly different vocal drop on the second break.
Following “Boss Mode,” the Earstorm founders move into the real substance behind their album’s message. The fourth piece on Abandon Ship highlights the somewhat ridiculous nature of how our industry works sometimes. “EDM Trend Machine” scratches between at least four completely different genres, making a classification on Beatport nearly impossible. The track laughs at genre conventions as it frivolously chirps tropical house, pushes deep house, dabbles in big room house, sprinkling electro and nu-disco elements throughout. Knife Party’s year on the sidelines gave the producer pair the opportunity to observe dance music’s trends and niches with very keen eyes and ears, with “EDM Trend Machine” laughing at it all.
The next tune on the album plays on the obnoxious error message when a user can’t connect to a particular server. “404” is snarling electro-house, big-room hybrid, as the name might be intended to reflect a notable disconnect within the dance music community. However it is interpreted, “404” fearlessly blends multiple styles to make for pounding festival weapon.
“Begin Again” is Knife Party’s best stab at progressive house although its tongue-in-cheek, cookie-cutter production style points to the pair’s relatively evident disdain for the formulaic output of today’s “big hits.” Electro-pop at its finest, the tune employs big breaks and melodic vocals as it touches on the popular production styles that are garnering heavy radio play nowadays.
As the ship really starts to go down and its sink or swim, Knife Party returns to a style reminiscent of their old productions with “Give It Up.” The track relies on a backbone of distorted Jamaican patois as it delivers a throbbing punch of up-tempo dubstep. The tune pushes and pulls the listener in different directions with vicious, growling synth layers. “Give It Up” is the bulldozer of the album; a mean piece of dubstep that is not for the faint of heart.
“D.I.H.M.” is the record’s playful dance number, characterized by an infectious shuffle. The tune is designed to “set souls free” with the power of pure, blissful grooviness. “D.I.H.M” reflects the lighter side of Knife Party, rather than abiding by their usually aggressive disposition. The tune is a breath of fresh air, just past the midway point of Abandon Ship.
Occasionally, you find someone who drives that ultra-flashy sports car, or rocks at overly ostentatious wrist watch and think, “that guy is definitely overcompensating for something.” Everybody knows that guy. For the ninth cut on the album, Gareth and Rob set their cross-hairs on those people overcompensating for what the duo feels might be a lack in talent in the industry with “Micropenis.” The track is a boisterous barrage of big room house that doesn’t take itself all too seriously. Also, the album had to include a track name meant to be reflective of the pair’s typically dry disposition.
“Superstar” just became KP’s best b-side secret weapon. “Superstar” is dramatic yet altogether sexy and adventurous, as the Aussie producers deliver a complete departure from their usual output. The first two thirds of the track are delectable disco funk. What kind of Knife Party track would be complete without keen vocal samples that direct sharp quips such as “Oh my god, what the f*ck is this disco-shit?” Towards the tail end of the tune, the duo return to a minimal electro-house style to round off the most underrated track of this album.
For the penultimate production on the LP, “Red Dawn” is a sinister house track that employs rolling drum kicks over mysterious Arabian nights-inspired chords. This particular track doesn’t stand out from the bunch at first listen but ultimately comes in as a safe selection. “Red Dawn” is dark and eerie, which aligns with what Knife Party does best, but knows its boundaries. Its no “Rage Valley” but it deserves its spot on their album. “Red Dawn” brings about the last moments of the album, leading into Abandon Ship‘s final track.
Finally, the album is capped off with an introspective cut, “Kaleidoscope,” the foil to the LP’s opener. The tune is a minimal mid-tempo house beat that smoothly marks the end of Rob and Gareth’s year on the outside. It is essentially the credits rolling after Knife Party has said their final piece.
And with that, a critical look at the broader release of the album will reveal just how satirically-charged this commentary really is after all. From the countless delays and “leaks” prior to the album’s official release, all the way to listening to the full-length debut LP in its entirety, the whole experience is a comically National Lampoon-esque commentary on the state of dance music as a whole. Abandon Ship was Knife Party’s departure from the limelight last year. When the ship caught fire and began to sink, the Aussie duo abandoned their posts, and began working on rebuilding the old vessel. Fast forward to the end of 2014, the foreboding words of “Reconnect” mark an appropriate exclamation for the arrival of Knife Party’s long-elusive project.