When the Knife announced their fourth album would be 98 minutes long, it felt like a punk move: the system of commercial music does not handle length well.
Shaking The Habitual takes hallmarks of the pop duo's previous albums - ambiguous vocals, politicized lyrics, steel drum, acid house - and blows them apart with epic forays into electro-acoustic squall. Some songs are like new music or techno in their focus on soundscape, rhythm and structure, but in others melody takes over, as in pop. What makes it listenable is a strong central idea about defying authority.
Essentially, this is an attempt to escape pop conventions and achieve a sound analogous to the gender theory ideas informing the album's lyrics.
It feels like a lower-case "fuck you" compared with Lou Reed's chaotic feedback opus Metal Machine Music but sounds less intimidatingly formal than, say, Björk's Biophilia, another album about rewiring the framework of pop. Landing somewhere in between, Shaking The Habitual is full of thrillingly percussive highs and brilliantly deranged vocals, but overall its anti-pop move is more typical than radical. If anything, The Knife's electro-acoustic jamming doesn't seem incendiary enough.
Top track: Without You My Life Would Be Boring