Are Knifeworld About To Go More Commercial?
With Knifeworld about to drop their third album, we join Kavus Torabi and the rest of the purveyors of beautiful psychedelic rock for a chat about protest songs and playing live.
Kavus Torabi is a busy man. Even before we sit down to do the interview proper, he’s talking about rehearsing with the post-Daevid Allen line-up of Gong and the challenges of honouring the band’s legacy while continuing to make new music.
This is in addition to being guitarist in avant rock gods Guapo, boss of boutique label Believers Roast, DJ partner of Steve Davis on the Interesting Alternative radio show and, most importantly, bandleader and creative force behind Knifeworld, whose third album Bottled Out Of Eden is the reason we’re meeting today.
Just as Steven Wilson has become the majordomo of all things nu prog, so Torabi has come to occupy a similar position in a tight-knit, post-Cardiacs world where the music is playful but challenging, gloriously melodic but often fearsomely complex. Torabi was a member of the Cardiacs when the band were forced into an indefinite hiatus after Tim Smith suffered a heart attack and series of strokes, and in many ways, Knifeworld have carried forward the torch of this particular type of music since their first release in 2009.
However, with their new album, they may well be about to take things to another level. While 2014’s The Unravelling received some rave reviews, it was still characterised by the type of sudden mood swings and dense, twisting arrangements that even in prog circles can alienate as many people as they delight. Bottled Out Of Eden is a different beast altogether, pulling off the trick of immediately engaging the listener’s attention without sacrificing the joyful complexity of the band’s sound. When Prog tentatively suggests that this is a much more accessible Knifeworld, Torabi laughs and nods enthusiastically. “That was sort of the idea!
“It’s not an attempt to go commercial,” he adds, “but after the last record, which was very knotty and navel-gazing in some ways, I wanted to write something that was ‘up’.”
Melanie Woods, Torabi’s co-singer and percussionist, agrees with this assessment: “It’s not compromised in any way – there’s still a lot of intricate stuff on there. But if somebody was checking the band out and heard those first three tracks, they would keep listening.”
Indeed they would. Opening song High/Aflame fades up on a cosmic drone over which Torabi sings ‘The devil keeps a close watch on his entryphone,’ like a puckish Brian Eno, before a driving bassline pushes the song heavenwards. The Germ Inside has a Robert Fripp-esque riff, but it’s the handclaps and fruity sax that make it really swing. I Am Lost interlaces jazzy piano and brass lines with a soaring vocal from Woods, then explodes into a climax of strutting guitar and spacey synth. It’s a confident series of songs that set the stage for the rest of the album.