(Photo Credit: Justin Henning)
We had the opportunity to get advance access to Knife Knights' new album 1 Time Mirage, which drops on Sub Pop (Big thank you to Sub Pop) this Friday, September 14! We took a deep dive into the album and are bringing you an Advance Review of the album. Check it out below!
Knife Knights is a duo of Ishmael Butler and musician/producer Erik Blood. Their sound is considered lo-fi hip-hop. This genre has really grown in popularity thanks to YouTube study radio channels. Lo-fi hip-hop has a very soothing, electronic sound with a strong beat. Many fans claim that it helps soothe the nerves while keeping you productive with the strong beat. With Knife Fights new album, 1 Time Mirage, the majority of the album holds true to the description above. Let's look at each track individually:
1. "Come On Let's Go" - The album opens up to a messy beginning. Several instruments are doing their own thing, but quite quickly, the individual sounds all fold together into a steady, soothing beat. What really makes this song is the jazzy vocals. This track stands out because of all the individual pieces working together to put something incredible out there.
2. "Can't Draw the Line" - This track takes a different route. The vocals are breathy, which can be a bit strange at first, but then, it becomes clear the focal point is the electronic backing. We could easily see this being included in a video game soundtrack.
3. "My Dreams Never Sleep" - The beat throughout this record is fantastic, but this track includes a beat with Latin influence to it. The vocals are very distorted, but the beat keeps you dancing.
4. "Light Up Ahead (Time Mirage) - If you loved the 90's slow jams, this is the song for you. The instrumentation is an interesting salute to those slow jams, but we found the lyrics fascinating. The entire song is composed of introspective questions that the listener can't help but try to answer. You may have to stop this track and journal about it for a while.
5. "Bionic Chords" - This song is playful. It is mainly instrumental, and the song is filled with layering of different melodies, beats, and special effects. It even has a trippy breakdown with a guitar and piano. The ending is strong! "Bionic Chords, Sonic Overlords".
6. "Mr. President" - This song was very metallic and robotic in tone. One of the messages of the song is wanting to be the boss to create change, but it sounds so harsh and forceful that we're not rooting for this narrator to be in a leadership position.
7. "Low Key" - A strong bongo beat adds a warmth to this song that was missing from many of the other tracks. It also includes a vocal chant of "low key" to supplement the bongo beat. With all of that wonderful work going, the main narrator chants a powerful, assertive message over in a clear voice. Very cool.
8. "Give You Game" - It has a traditional hip-hop feel to it. We really liked hearing a female lead and a male lead singing back and forth to each other. Again, it added a much-needed warmth. It sounds more human.
9. "Drag Race Legend" - This is the turning point of the album. Where before all the instrumentation and vocals felt deliberate and intriguing...this sounds like it has no end goal and is cluttered. Almost like a jam session. The beginning is very slow, and once the lyrics start in, the vocals become extremely distorted.
10. "Seven Wheel Motion" - Again, there are issues with instrumentation here. There is still layering, but it doesn't feel like it folds together.
11. "Light Work" - This less than a minute track ends in a loud, screeching sound that did not appeal to us. It felt rough and thrown together.
Closing Thoughts - All together, when Knife Knights really pulls their creative genius together, their music is impressive. All the layering of the instrumentation and vocals while making little salutes to many different genres -- Jazz, Gospel, Hip-Hop -- are amazing. However, the overall feel of the album is cold; pair this with the ending three tracks.
Great study music. Great video game soundtrack music, but for prolonged attentive jamming, we're not sure it's best suited for that.