Last year when Norwegian electro-duo Röyksopp released their 3rd album, Junior, they were obviously continuing the development of 2005’s The Understanding, which was a more synth-pop orientated sound than their 2001 debut Melody A.M. That tasty first album was adding dimension to the ambient electronic landscape mapped by Warp label operatives like Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada; yet there were signs that pointed toward the broader modes expressed on the coming albums. These guys knew how to construct, er, melodies, (should have said ‘songs’) and so the move to include guest vocalists and push things onto the dance floor was a natural one. It was still cool, for sure. But I would always slap on Melody A.M. when I was in a Röyksopp mood. Anyway, when they released Junior, they also announced their plans to release another album soon after, which would quench the thirst of their ambient fans. So here it is. And it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it’s an inspired move, acknowledging the distinction and splitting the styles over two albums. It provides them the space to explore (and focus on) both paths, and lets us to choose the right album for our mood. So the results are more potent. This is the soundtrack to a dark looming future. “…And the Forest Began to Sing” fades in with spacey vibes trekking around some luminous carousel before “Tricky Two” supplies us with some action. (Here I was reminded of the sequel to one of my all-time favourite films, Tron, which is due out at the end of the year with Daft Punk on board to supply the soundtrack. As much as I wish they just left it alone, you can bet I’ll be there when Tron: Legacy opens, ready to hop a light-cycle and zoom into the virtual gaming sphere once again. And if they hadn’t already secured Daft Punk for the job I’d at least submit “Tricky Two” for inclusion on the soundtrack.) The album continues on, with each song (named like intriguing chapter titles “The Alcoholic”, “The Drug”, “The Fear”) morphing into a different electro-ambient genre. There sounds like nods to The KLF, The Orb, Air, Lindstrøm, Boards of Canada etc. (I can even hear shades of David Gilmour in the serpentine guitar of “Senior Living”), but also the old German pioneers. When I got this album, I’d been listening to Ashra’s first album, New Age of Earth (1976) (the continuation of Ash Ra Tempel, but effectively the solo beginnings of Manuel Göttsching) and when I switched to Röyksopp then back to Ashra, I kinda forgot which album I was listening to. And I’ve remained happily disoriented ever since. This will be my new go-to album when the Röyksopp spirit takes hold. It’s dark but glowing, submerged but floating…and loaded with sonic launches for an overactive imagination. Plus that cover seems to gaze back at me, daring me to dive deeper each time. I want to know what those shady dudes are up to. The final song, “A Long, Long Way”, is an epic 12-minute space odyssey, drifting out past the known universe before snapping back to creepy reality with the disconcerting groans and laughter of what I can only imagine is those two ominous figures, who have been watching me the entire time from the shadowy corners of their den of iniquity. Where am I? For a moment I thought I was trapped in The Black Lodge. Or maybe I’m tied-up in their basement, and as the chloroform wears off I started hearing strange music. This album may not be the safest place; but I like it.
~ DECOY SPOON
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