Some concept albums are more difficult than others. With Tomorrow, In a Year, The Knife elongates concepts of opera, natural sound, and electronic music to an entirely new space that will surprise some listeners and stun others to pure calm.
The Knife has teamed up with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock for Tomorrow, In a Year. The record is a version of an opera commissioned by Dutch performance group Hotel Pro Forma based on the life of Charles Darwin and his book On the Origin of Species. The immense work is satisfying and thoroughly riveting, if not wholly exceptional.
Spread out over two discs, the art flows distinctly as one unit and deserves to be heard in its entirety rather than split into tracks. This is a full production and The Knife’s version of opera tells a complete story.
The Knife is Swedish siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer. Their dedication to their craft is without parallel in the field, as they fully plunge themselves in each project they imagine. As the follow-up to the inspired Silent Shout, Tomorrow, In a Year has a lot stacked against it right out of the gate. But The Knife never tries to surpass their previous hit. Instead, they daringly head in another direction.
This is a delicate record in that it demands something from the listener. It isn’t accessible in the traditional sense, either, and many may be turned away by its challenging, strenuous nature.
Those who remain will be infinitely rewarded, however, as Tomorrow, In a Year is the sort of thing that deepens with each listen. There are moments of reflective poignancy and moments of meagre invention, all of which add up to the broader atmosphere that the record aims to create.
Mezzo soprano Kristina Wahlin, Laerke Winther, and Swedish pop artist Jonathan Johansson are also featured, but their performances are often pushed back into the mix by The Knife to serve the album’s larger goals.
Tomorrow, In a Year invites us to experience Darwin’s life in unique fashion. The first disc takes us through his discoveries with thin, natural sounds and field recordings, while the second disc draws us in to a more expressive level and carries us through his letters about his daughter Anne and his grief over her early death.
Throughout the album, The Knife resourcefully and cautiously layers sounds on top of other sounds. This is an exercise of measured process, like evolution itself, and the procedure can be complicated and painstaking. This is no ordinary record, but The Knife is no ordinary group.