Knifeplay released a collection of tracks called B-Sides & Rarities, consisting of music compiled during the span of the band’s career. Whenever I come across collections like these, it almost always feels questionable. The fact that it is possible for them to compile 17 tracks as lush and as compelling as these that haven’t found a home in their regular releases makes me wonder how much more music out there is stuck under hard drives and cassette tapes on dusty boxes and basements.
This B-side offering is no slouch. We get a mix bag of tricks, yet this variety and novelty is not only great for fans of Knifeplay, but also provides great insight to the band’s evolution as musicians over the years. As such, I feel like this record is something everyone can enjoy but including the uninitiated.
Knifeplay’s gentle blend of lo-fi pop, warm acoustic riffs and shoegaze effects have a way of calming the mind to a slow breathing pattern. The opening “12 Strings” is as close to an indie orchestra as we can get, with lush synths hovering over gleaming strings and a mood that flows like a calm stream. “Skate or Die” is the epitome of slowcore, with a soundscape that almost feels like it’s suspended in slow motion. The song speaks about the brashness of youth, and along with its instrumentation it evokes the feeling of never wanting the good times to end.
There are a few glimpses where the band shifts into more abrasive themes. “Engine” feels like the typical shoegaze rock except its distortion is subdued and shoved behind ethereal vocals and synths. “Dying” is haunted by a low growling riff, yet the languid tempo gives it no opportunity to bite.
In other times, the music feels cinematic. With the band’s patient and stretched out nature, it feels effortless for them to move into the grandiose. “Hell” feels triumphant with its radiant melody and soaring strings. “Sunbeams” evokes a calm feeling of driving through the countryside in perfect weather.
Listening to Knifeplay’s B-Sides & Rarities feels like flipping through faded photo albums and finding gems and fond memories in every page. Best of all, is that it feels welcoming for anyone willing to get lost in its nostalgia.