Röyksopp

The Understanding
(Astralwerks)

Röyksopp goes from mellow to compulsive, so change your shoes.
Röyksopp goes from mellow to compulsive, so change your shoes.
Röyksopp's debut disc, Melody A.M., produced mood-setting mix-tape fodder and soundtracked any room at a rave that came with a couch. The Understanding starts in the same vein, with parochial piano and a gentle percussive pulse, but then it turns the beat around, disco-style. Bop-gun bloops, vocoder murmurs, quick-click drums, handclaps, an awestruck-choir effect, a sampled dude yelling "yeah" -- all these elements appear during up-tempo numbers. The Norwegian duo enhances its airy vocals with supplementary singers; Chelonis R. Jones adds R&B flava, Kate Havnevik wails in dance-diva fashion, and Karin Dreijer describes "flashlights and explosions" in a wide-eyed warble. The record's centerpiece is the eight-minute "Alpha Male," which sprawls like a '70s prog suite right down to the flute solo. Opening with an ambient yawn and keyboard-generated horn fanfare, the song evolves into a techno thumper with an elastic "Humpty Dance" bass line, then fades back into hibernation mode. It plays like a single-song career study, merging the group's somnolent origins with its groove-driven present, and the stark contrast flatters the latter. Röyksopp's chill-out approach had its charms, but its fast-paced material is a lot more fun.
 
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