Tuesday 5 September 2023

Review of 'Knower Forever' by Knower

The fact Knower aren’t more well-known is an absolute crime. The duo’s latest jazz-funk banger bonanza is one of the most fun albums I’ve heard in a while.

I didn't know anything about Knower until this year. After stumbling upon the music video for ‘I’m The President’, I knew straight away I’d struck gold. The unique sweary-but-sweet mouse-like vocals, the technically proficient jazzy musicianship and the hilariously edited live music video all came together so well. It was like tasting a perfect winning recipe.

It turns out that the duo – consisting of Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi - have been making music since 2009. Louis Cole is a multi-instrumentalist who is particularly gifted on the drums. He is responsible for the viral funky song ‘Bank Account’ that you may or may not have heard a decade ago, and is also rumoured to be a member of thrilling absurdist synth/sax duo Clown Core. Genevieve Artadi is a singer/keyboardist who has also released several solo works along with being in the indie-electronic band Pollyn. Much of the duo’s music up until now has been heavily electronic. Knower Forever on the other hand is mostly live musicianship.

After being floored by ‘I’m The President’ and being equally impressed by subsequent singles ‘The Abyss’ and ‘Crash The Car’, I knew that I had to listen to this album. That was when I found out that it was currently only available on Bandcamp for purchase – it wouldn’t be made freely available on any other streaming services until the end of the year. And so, impatient to hear this record, I did something that I haven’t done in aeons: I paid for the album despite having only heard the singles. Was it worth it? 100% yes.

Knower Forever opens with a harmonically complex instrumental made of strings and horns that’s both parts face-scrunchingly dissonant and spine-tinglingly beautiful. While you’re still in recovery from what you’ve just heard, it then launches into lead single ‘I’m The President’, which is about the most fun and funkiest song you’ll hear all year. Spiky and speedy single ‘The Abyss’ follows and is also a blast with its staccato chorus and series of lightning-fast solos. Then we’re into uncharted non-single territory.

‘Real Nice Moment’ is indeed a real nice moment with its detuned arpeggios and pillowy synth chords over which Genevieve refrains from expletives in favour of dreamy liminal imagery about empty parking lots and the midnight sun. ‘It’s All Nothing Until It’s Everything’ follows, commencing with Clown-Core-esque shrill synths and rapid-fire drums, before evolving into a gorgeous ascending instrumental section with a jazz piano solo. ‘Nightmare’ meanwhile feels the closest to vintage dance-y Knower of any of the tracks, spiced up by some cool tempo changes and a funky Ridge-Racer-flavoured rave section in the second half.

Short-but-sweet ballad ‘Same Smile, Different Face’ feels well-placed after upbeat ‘Nightmare’, and shines the spotlight on Artadi’s angelic vocals. It provides a nice breather before ‘Do Hot Girls Like Chords’, which is probably my second-favourite song here after ‘I’m The President’ – it opens with a mean Jamiroquai-esque groove before diving into a heavenly chord sequence sure to win over hot and cold girls alike (the Meshuggah-like instrumental passage towards the end followed by the jazzy guitar solo is *chef’s kiss*).  Following this is ‘real cute’ track ‘Ride That Dolphin’ which is a track about embracing far-fetched dreams with an awesome Jackson-5-flavoured na-na-na section accompanied by a choir.

By this point, any regular album would have lost steam, but Knower Forever keeps up the momentum with ‘It Will Get Real’ – a surprisingly uptempo track about facing death. This paves the way for magnificent single ‘Crash The Car’, which slows things down to allow room for Artadi’s voice to soar. My only complaint with this track (and the album) is that this should have been the closer. Granted, the final track is called ‘Bonus Track’ and is still an enjoyable little instrumental.

I was almost certain that Shame’s Food For Worms would be my album of the year in 2023, but for now Knower Forever has stolen the podium position. I get that this album may not be for everyone - some people may find the lyrics a little silly and instrumentation a little ostentatious. But personally this album feel like the perfect balance of just about everything. It’s got humour and depth. It’s got complexity and melody. And its excitingly experimental while still containing well-composed catchy songs at its core.