Tomorrow, In A Year - Mute
FILTER Grade: 86 (for Darwinist opera fans), 68 (for everybody else)%
By Ken Scrudato on April 2, 2010
When opera was birthed in 16th century Florence, with the first production of Jacopo Peri’s mostly forgotten Dafne, the Florentine Renaissance had already taken significant strides towards putting man at the center of his own universe, with God relegated to the role of divine inspiration. The new humanism allowed art and learning to flourish in the exalted Republic, before a regressive, Bible-beating monk named Savonarola launched a crusade against it all—and lost. The ideas cultivated during the Renaissance veritably laid the foundation for the great temple of modern scientific reasoning, the pinnacle of which was arguably Charles Darwin’s 1859 masterwork, The Origin of the Species. Now, with puppy-murdering atheists once again heatedly squaring off against the righteous armies of the holy, The Knife, a veritable Renaissance unto themselves, could surely have done nothing less than uniting 500 years of progress, composing an entire operatic tribute to the rational glories of Darwinism.
Make no mistake, it smells like opera, it tastes like opera—so it must be opera, not snickering kitsch. But just as Dead Can Dance had before transplanted Western classical conceits into Eastern contexts, The Knife (together with co-conspirators Mt. Sims and Planningtorock) thrust opera’s resplendent designs against modern aural nature and horrorscapes, the latter usually 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. The actual operatic trilling does mostly hold to traditional timbre and tonality, but atmospherically, often there is little more than a siren, the screeching of machinery, the croaking of frogs or chirping of crickets. All very...Darwin.
Opera, of course, requires a libretto. And an astonishing amount of research by The Knife’s Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson has 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,” delves into the great naturalist’s torment at the loss of his beloved daughter with all the funeral dread of a Diamanda Galas requiem. While Tomorrow, In A Year is a work of staggering scope, it is, to be honest, extremely difficult and by some standards, unlistenable “music.” But be duly warned: If you do not at least give it a chance, well, then the God people definitely win.