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Album review | INDIE ROCK

The Knife, ‘Shaking the Habitual’

Rahav Segev for The New York Times/file

Calling “Shaking the Habitual” an album sells it short. The latest from the Swedish electronic duo the Knife, it’s more along the lines of an installation piece you’d find at a gallery, a knotty tangle of polyrhythms, distorted vocals, and heady influences ranging from French philosopher Michel Foucault to gender studies. It’s pop music that belongs under glass: Look, but don’t touch.

It’s the kind of record that is so self-possessed and primal, it nearly steamrolls the listener. Thirteen songs give way to 98 minutes and address everything from sexuality to the evils of capitalism and political corruption. Oh, and there’s a song called “Fracking Fluid Injection” full of fractured and oscillating vocals. (Let that be the line in the sand.)

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Easy listening this is not, but “Shaking the Habitual” is at least bold and brash, the work of a band hungry to explore strange sonic textures. It’s a certainly a long way from “Heartbeats,” the electro-pop song reimagined as an acoustic ballad by José González.

“Full of Fire,” a nine-minute collision of bludgeoning beats and slogans masquerading as lyrics, summons you to dance with some stridently anti-party sentiments: “Let’s talk about gender, baby / Let’s talk about you and me,” Karin Dreijer Andersson intones, riffing on a line from Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

Even more telling, and something the entire album seems desperate to answer, is a question Andersson poses in the middle of that song: “When you’re full of fire / What’s the object of your desire?” (Out Tuesday)

ESSENTIAL “Full of Fire”

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