The Knife’s Landmark Opera ‘Tomorrow in a Year’ Gets a Vinyl Release

Above image by Sara Hernandez

When one considers the musical landscape of 2001 vs. 2021, it’s hard to imagine anyone or anything as perception altering as The Knife coming along now – with expectations having been so significantly lowered. The Swedish duo of Olof and Karin Dreijer (brother and sister, they) emerged from Gothenburg 20 years ago with a self-titled debut album that would assure we would never hear or see anything the same ever again. Their live performances were veritably sacred (and sometimes unholy) events.

After their final live appearance in 2014, the world obviously got decidedly more banal. But the occasion of their 20th anniversary has brought the opportunity for the band to undertake a series of re-issues (in conjunction with Mute), which only serve to remind of the magnificence we have been deprived of these last seven years. The latest is the first ever vinyl pressing of one of their most ineffable projects, a 2010 collaboration with Mt Sims and Planningtorock titled Tomorrow, in a Year – an entire operatic tribute to the rational glories of Charles Darwin and his theories of Darwinism, by invitation of the Danish theater company Hotel Pro Forma. Though the two entities did not at first take the same view.

“The theatre company wanted to make an opera about evolution theory and Darwin ideas,” Olof recalls. “And they asked if we could make music for that. We entered that project thinking, Of course, it’s important to talk about Darwin’s impact on fascism in Europe.​ It is as important as the colonial history of Europe – how Darwin’s ideas were misused to promote fascism. But throughout the project, it became clear that [the theatre company] was not interested in that. They were interested in biology and geology.”

And so The Knife thrust opera’s resplendent designs against modern aural nature- and horrorscapes, the latter usually more associated with the likes of Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire. Indeed, though ‘Upheaved’ could almost be descended from Bizet’s Carmen, much of Tomorrow, In A Year stands violently athwart most classical notions of structure. Granted, the actual operatic intoning does mostly hold to traditional timbre and tonality; but atmospherically, often there is little more than a siren, the screeching of machinery or the croaking of frogs or chirping of crickets – nature and man and his creations set against the enormous sweep of desolation and enigma that is our existence. All very…Darwin.

Opera, of course, requires a libretto. And an astonishing amount of research by Karin and Olof resulted in a non-linear but intellectually passionate tale of one of the greatest minds of the 19th Century. It even veers into the personal and visceral, the hauntingly beautiful ‘Annie’s Box’ delving into the great naturalist’s torment at the loss of his beloved daughter, with all the funereal dread of a Diamanda Galas requiem.

Yet while Tomorrow, In A Year is a work of staggering scope and unassailable genius, it is, to be honest, somewhat difficult music – and your average Strokes fan may deem it rather impenetrable. But it is nevertheless a unique opportunity for both musical and intellectual enlightenment.

180 gram double vinyl editions will ship August 20, 2021, and can be pre-ordered via Rabid Records.

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