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[Experimental Pop]

CD Review: The Knife’s ‘Shaking the Habitual’

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Annie Zaleski

In hindsight, The Knife’s shadowy electro-pop hits “Silent Shout” and “Heartbeats” were something of a ruse. Since releasing those relatively accessible tunes, the Swedish duo has challenged audiences, first by collaborating on an opera and now with their fourth studio album, Shaking the Habitual.

The Details

The Knife
Shaking the Habitual
Three and a half stars

Less a collection of linear songs than a series of seething rhythmic sculptures—and, at times, a collection of wild animal sounds—the 13-song album features unsettled vocal murmurs and shrieks, geometric electronic beats, clammy ambient noise and blocky digital programming. The dense new-wave prog of Tears for Fears is an influence (“A Tooth for an Eye”), as is Björk’s abstract later-era work (the shapeshifting, icy disco wobble “Stay Out Here”). But Shaking the Habitual excels most when it evokes harrowing scenes: “Full of Fire” techno stomps through tar; “Networking” twitches like an electrocution and “Fracking Fluid Injection” feels like a neo-classical zombie attack. It’s compromising and bewitching, but also compulsively listenable.

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