KNIFE THE SYMPHONY

Record Reviews
LKN/Knife The Symphony Split (2010)


“LKN sounds like a direct descendent of the whole Slint/June of 44/Shipping News axis. The songs are shorter but just as complex. The band (which is, in fact, one Lauren K. Newman) crams so many ideas in three-to-four minutes it’s scary. Knife the Symphony is a bit more contemplative. Only a bit. And while its three pieces are quite distinct from LKN, the truth of the matter is that none of the three songs sounds a lot like any of the others. The best is a seven-minute Kepone-like thrasher called “Flat Time.” There’s also a fun sludgy cover of fIREHOSE’s “On Your Knees.“ Two fine bands. Two quite different acts. Except, of course, that both would have been completely at home on Touch and Go Records fifteen years ago. No wonder I liked this so much.”
—AIDING & ABETTING #328



“Lauren Kathryn Newman (aka LKN) is one of the most interesting and inspired female artists of the twenty-first century. At a point in time when so many artists are driven by technology, Lauren’s music is pure and real. She’s a one woman band but…more importantly…she’s a one woman rock band. No fluffy shit here, Lauren plays with guts and passion…and her music rocks. Six new Newman tracks here…and they all hit the target (as usual!). Our favorites include “Roll The Bones” and “You Are My Best Friend.” If you haven’t heard this lady play guitar yet…you haven’t lived. Rounding out this split CD are three tracks by Cincinnati’s Knife The Symphony. Loud, intense, in-your-face alternative crazy rock that reminds us some of the more out-of-control underground rock bands from the mid-1990s. These guys are gutsy, crazed, and passionate. Cool split disc from two exceptionally talented artists.”
—BABYSUE


“We always marvel at the ferocity and tightfisted aggression of Ohio slashers Knife The Symphony. Garnering comparisons to Jawbox and Squirrel Bait—hallowed references!—they don’t fall flat, because unlike many postpunk bands, the Cincinnati trio aren’t so angular they neglect some muscular, storming punk fire. Rarer, they’re dynamically diverse; note the couple-minutes breakdown into near silence then back into full rage midway through the seven minute monster “Flat Time.” Not many have the command to subtly, slowly quash and then reclaim heavy volume over such a long stretch, and all three of their cuts are as liberating as crushing. Prior, the off-kilter alt. rock and AOR rock mix of Lauren Kathryn Newman, or LKN, is intentionally grating. Other than a nice piano song, her funky, prog-y, guitar hero stuff shreds like Primus jamming with Jimmy Page. Perhaps it’s just her placement misfortune, then, if she comes off as jazzy noodling opening for KTS’s laser focus.”
—BIG TAKEOVER #67

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Record Reviews continued
Dead Tongues (2009)


“I was at an Oklahoma City Thunder game yesterday, and “Blitzkrieg Bop” came on over the PA in the same loop as fragments of rap songs, “Jump Around” by House of Pain and various songs mostly known as Jock Jams. While the Ramones have suffered far worse indignities in terms of where they’ve been played, it still made me sad. The Ramones were the sound of rebellion at their time. Parents smashed their kids’ Ramones [records]. There’s nothing rebellious about the Oklahoma City Thunder (sorry, KD). I swung a little bit more toward the “Punk is dead” argument that I hate (because that argument is-usually-a cop-out).

But then I heard Knife the Symphony’s Dead Tongues, and I feel much better about the state of rebellious music. Knife the Symphony plays loud, dissonant, unconventional rock music that has the tempos of punk, but the chords and artistic aesthetic of post-hardcore. Except in the hypnotic “Sold Out (In an Empty Room),” the vocalist doesn’t bother with melody9 he just screams when he feels like it. It’s hardly rhythmic, and the lyrics are almost entirely unintelligible. If I played this for almost anyone who likes the radio, they would hate it.

And I’m sure that pleases Knife the Symphony. Their songs ooze punk/DIY attitude, from the album art (a commissioned painting, it appears) to the complicated inner casing and artwork to the note that their version of “Fallout” by Hornet is only available on the vinyl of this album. The fact that there is a vinyl of this album is awesome. The fact that Hornet, as far as I can tell, is a local band from Kalamazoo, Michigan, makes their choice of cover even more awesome. To top it all off, their MySpace tagline is “you’re going to need earplugs.” This is punk rock.

Knife the Symphony’s Dead Tongues features great songs, like the blistering “Without Parallels” and the dissonant “At the Races.” And the songs are the draw, because without great songs, all this punk attitude is pointless. Knife the Symphony is talented, and that’s not to be overlooked in all this. But it’s their aesthetic that so pleases me. Dead Tongues is definitely one of the most important things I’ve heard in a long time. The punk aesthetic is alive, and Knife the Symphony knows it. Keep at it.”
—INDEPENDENT CLAUSES

“Chuck Foster (Issue 60) and Bryan Swirsky (Issue 63) already gave this boiling Cincinnati trio’s first two albums the nod, so curious me was drawn to check out the hubbub, bub. It takes only a minute to discern the clamor. KTS wail like your father’s emo greats of yesteryear, locating their nucleus in ground between the late 80’s Dischord and Touch & Go labels—where Ohio happens to also sit, geographically. The banging, whirling, ridiculously rhythmic post-punk emo attack is a wonder, especially given the generous cool down periods of sinister slowcore quiet they interject… these guys are inhuman.”
—BIG TAKEOVER #65 / Jack Rabid

 

“You know, the cutting-edge hipster music blog Pitchfork recently gave the reissue of Jawbox’s last album a rave review, so the time is possibly right for early-‘90’s style post-hardcore. Knife The Symphony has a little Squirrel Bait, a little Drive Like Jehu, and yes, a little Jawbox. In other words, all the best touch points for this kind of music without sounding like a rip-off of any one in particular. Some of the melodic intros get a bit meandering for my tastes and the songs are a tad long (on hits over seven minutes!), but the loud, faster parts are ripping. Definitely worth checking out if any of that sounds appealing.”
—MAXIMUM ROCK & ROLL #321

 

“Cincinnati’s Knife The Symphony creates a stirring sense of urgency typically associated with the kind of rattling post-hardcore and punk that played so heavily in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s on labels like Dischord, Touch And Go, and Alternative Tentacles. And like the great Fugazi before it, KTS shows an intense sense of direction, a three-piece functioning as one but with production clean enough to allow each layer of music to stand out on its own, especially Jeff Albers’ coarse, angry yelling/singing. This year’s Dead Tongues manages to crystallize a lot of the band’s fury into a relatively svelte six-song setting.”
—THE ONION Madison, WI / Vol. 46, Issue 19

 

“I’ve listened to previous material by this band, but I feel as if the music on this effort is going in a bit different of a direction… perhaps a little more loose and rocking. There’s a distinct quality to the dudes vocals versus the rest of the music. He definitely doesn’t fit in with it, but it/s working… There’s accompanying female vocals on a couple tracks that sound really great and bring the music in a slightly more shoegaze direction, yet still retaining some of that loose and hectic feel like the rest of the album. It’s nice mix of styles and works decently.”
—HANG LIKE A HEX

 

“Midwestern trio who seem to have taken some cues from early Husker Du but some of this stuff rocks in a more angular fashion like current Dischord band too. Vocalist must’ve had a major sore throat after this recording session.”
—DAGGER

 

Record Reviews continued
Crawler (2008)


“Emo the way it was meant to be played, like it’s straight from 1985.”
—MUSE BIN

 

“Spastic scrambles of art rock genius”
—ROCTOBER #46

 

“Good solid post-hardcore rock giving nods to the early days of Cursive, as well as the mid-90’s Dischord scene, accentuating the entire affair with some female vocal accompaniment. The first half of the record is all driving, energetic, and punchy. Once “Blindfold” hits though, things slow down, move into more introspective territory, and give the listener some respite before kicking back into first gear for the second half of the record. A good full-length all in all.”
—HANG LIKE A HEX

 

“The album is forty minutes of finely crafted post-hardcore filled with the sort of gripping rhythms that were the centerpiece of many great bands in the early to mid 90’s. Knife the Symphony succeed heavily on Crawler by thriving on pure power and emotion. It’s moody melodic driven post-hardcore that anyone who considers themselves a fan of the genre will definitely want to investigate further.”
—BUILT ON A WEAK SPOT

 

“KTS’s influences make themselves apparent throughout the album (this band definitely likes the Dischord label), but with the mix of Robyn Roth’s soft vocals and the Guy Picciotto-like yells of guitarist/singer Jeff Albers, the band is trying to create something new… blaring guitar work and a punchy bass line are surefire ways to rile any crowd up.”
—WONKAVISION

 

“[Knife The Symphony] will make your head hurt and your ears bleed. Dark, heavy and loud, the trio creates a sound that continues to grow until it suddenly explodes. Knife the Symphony: a symphony of razor-sharp noise.”
—BROKEN MIC

 

“Knife the Symphony makes lacerating Post Punk that recalls the days when words like “Indie” and “Alternative” didn’t exist, Touch & Go and Dischord ruled the underground and those types of musicians had to make due exclusively in the underground (which was fine by them). True to that D.I.Y. ethos, the band’s recent album, Crawler, not only came out on vinyl, but was released by Phratry Records, the local label run by the band members.

Rhythmically propulsive, Crawler is driven by Dirr and bassist Robyn Roth, who create a relentless backbeat that is both inescapably muscular and endlessly creative (Math Rock-y, but fast, pointed and switchblade-sharp). Guitarist Jeff Albers’ guitar is lacerating, crawling and scratching between the adrenaline-laced grooves like a wild animal on the prowl. Albers and Roth provide vocals and their disparate, distinctive voices create an engaging duality—Albers high-wire wail is anxious and heated, while Roth’s lush, more mannered style recalls the female vocals of My Bloody Valentine.

The throttle remains on high virtually from start to finish on Crawler, which tends to make some of the songs indistinctly bleed into one. But the band’s tightness and ability to blend instrumental precision with a “let it all hang out” fieriness is thoroughly engaging.”
—CITYBEAT MAGAZINE

 

“Apparently these guys are a DIY emopunk supergroup, with former members of Theraphosa and Ampline. What I CAN tell you is that if this scribe was in touch with that scene, this first album (following a self-titled EP) would never leave my turntable. Which is exactly where it’s been for days. These guys have a lot of promise as they are quite forward thinking in both approach and attack. That and they wear those influences well.”
—BIG TAKEOVER #63

 

Record Reviews continued
Self-Titled EP (2007)


“Oh man—I miss bands like this. Having spent the mid-90’s in high school, I “came of age,” so to speak, listening to bands on Touch & Go, AmRep, and Dischord. Knife The Symphony, a trio from Ohio, capture that period perfectly. The rolling syncopation of Unwound blasts with the massive sound of In On The Killtaker-era Fugazi and Shellac’s heaviosity. The male/female vocal dynamic reminds one of Blonde Redhead for some reason. As expected with a band of this nature, the lyrics are incomprehensible societal commentaries, yet shouted with such conviction over complex art punk, they work perfectly. Quite honestly, I spend time wondering why emo doesn’t sound more like this. This five-song EP has grabbed me and I want more.”
—BIG TAKEOVER #60

 

“Knife the Symphony is the first band I have come across in some time that truly fits its description. This EP will leave you spent. [Knife The Symphony is] a force to be reckoned with.”
—INDEPENDENT CLAUSES

 

“Each and every time I receive a package from the good folks of Phratry Records I tremble with excitement. No exaggeration, I actually got a paper cut opening this one up! Knife the Symphony is a trio comprised of former members of Ampline and Theraphosa and slices through indie rock with male and female vocals that never compete for air time (a wonderful change of pace, thank you very much) but just blend together like Sonic Youth used to. You can hear past DC post-hardcore rock influencing their sound—just keep in mind that these dudes and dudette are from Cincinnati, Ohio (a state worthy of four years of intense political blame, taking Florida’s lowly place in ‘04). The ideas [within this release] are so intense and well-constructed that you feel like you fell out of the building from the opening scenes of “The Hudsucker Proxy”, falling to your concrete doom with a grin on your face. Beguiling riffs weave their way through the thick bass grooves and crunchy drumming. Did I mention that this is a must-have?”
—SMOTHER

 

“Knife The Symphony, a relatively new band out of Cincinnati, has formulated a manifesto involving the destruction of the mainstream. It is the band’s declaration. Whether the bitterness is born from a frustration with the current state of indie music or whether its source is the banality of MTV and FM radio, it’s hard to tell. The result so far, though, is the EP Please Knife The Symphony, and the band shows some promise in its fight. The power trio owes a debt to God Machine, whose decade-old recordings laid the groundwork for bass-heavy grinds like those on this EP. The five songs here hit like a hammer when they want to. There are some subtleties as well, but most of it is heavy and dark.”
—DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY

 

“It’s that Midwest grinding bass sound, bubbling beneath the steady rhythms of those dirty/clean guitars that seem to define what critics call “post-hardcore”. Past the aggression and speed, but maintaining the rawness and applying it to moodier, more crafted songs. Jawbox knew how to do this, as did Snapcase (and there is a big difference between those two bands). Driving, relentless tempos boosted by sharp snaps of percussion and strained vocals, pushing for importance, demanding recognition, sounding like Christopher Broach of Braid/Firebird Band. There is a restrained intensity here. And when one of your members owns the label, getting your debut signed and released isn’t quite so tough. Dischord fans should line up for this. I’ll be the guy in the Burning Airlines shirt.”
—MODERN FIX

 

“Cincinnati’s Knife The Symphony writes amazingly dark bass-heavy punk-rock gems. This trio features former members of solid rockers like Ampline and Theraphosa. What really caught my ear’s attention was that Knife The Symphony shares a similar delivery to that of two of my favorite bands, Bob Evans and Unwound. This [EP] contains great dissonant rock with the thick bass constantly buzzing and the weighty rhythms always pounding hard. There’s great vocal interaction between singer/guitarist Jeff Albers and bassist Robyn Roth. Etch Knife The Symphony’s moniker into your cranial capacitor. This is definitely a band to check out if you rocked it to outfits like Bob Evans, Unwound, aMiniature, and Hurl.”
—FAKE TRAIN

 

“When one goes looking for something new in the world of music sometimes it’s in your own back yard. Knife the Symphony has only been around for a short while, but has managed to cement themselves to the Cincinnati music scene, with members from AUTUMN RISING, AMPLINE, FEASTS OF MERIT and THERAPHOSA. This new project has taken off faster than any of the rest and shows a more promising future for all the members. This 5-track CD, coming in just under a half hour, has some of the most intense creativity that leaves me crying for a full length release… I’m sure it won’t be long for that to happen, but the best things come to those who wait. This CD has almost left me speechless, but has opened my ears to a whole new world. Definitely the best band to come out of Cincinnati this year.
—NEUS SUBJEX

 

“...an awesome post-hardcore band absolutely rocking the fuck out of 5 jams. Yes, it starts to sound the same after awhile, but those thick grooves and Jawbox-ish guitars move things along at a heavy, yet erratic pace… it’s all the things I love about this style encapsulated in band hardly re-inventing the wheel, but instead showing others how to craft it well. Little extras, like background accented chimes and some hushed female vocal accompaniment from time to time bring some zest out in these songs. But I have to admit it’s the opening drive of “Common Elements” that sticks with me. It’s a very good start and thankfully their otherwise dour name doesn’t detract from their excellent sound.”
—HANG LIKE A HEX