Royksopp The Understanding

[Astralwerks; 2005]

Styles: electronic, down tempo, dance
Others: Zero 7, Air, New Order

With the opening piano line of "Triumphant," one feels as though they may be entering into some sort of space transporter with its course set for a distant star system. Appropriately then, Royksopp's sophomore release, The Understanding, takes the listener on an unmitigated aural journey through the outer reaches of electronic music. While their Melody A.M. was a down tempo pop masterpiece, they have wisely moved on to other applications of their skills, upping the bpms and prominence of vocals in the process.

Following the instrumental opening, one is hit with two surprisingly driving tracks, "Only This Moment" and "49 Percent," that immediately indicate how pronouncedly different an album Royksopp has created. Shaking of the narcotic haze of analog synths that vibrates over the entire surface of Melody A.M., these songs come off as potential hits ready for the radio. "49 Percent" in particular sports an impassioned vocal line that is hopelessly infectious and will have even casual listeners humming along with it very quickly. Having said this, the album is in no way front-loaded. "Follow My Ruin" and especially the frenetic "Circuit Breaker" provide moods far more impellent, and ultimately accessible, than any Royksopp had produced before.

But this journey has more to it than just the upbeat. Fans who loved the chill-out music won't be disappointed, as there are some more relaxing moments offered through such songs as "Someone Like Me" and "Beautiful Day Without You." When the journey, reaches completion, Royksopp lets their voyagers down easily with "Tristesse Globale" which reworks the piano line from "Triumphant" coating it with effects and in doing so amplifying its mournful nature. Of course, the sadness doesn't have to last, for all one has to do is hit play again to have Royksopp guide them through this incredibly satisfying musical universe.

1. Triumphant
2. Only This Moment
3. 49 Percent
4. Sombre Detune
5. Follow My Ruin
6. Beautiful Day Without You
7. What Else Is There?
8. Circuit Breaker
9. Alpha Male
10. Someone Like Me
11. Dead to the World
12. Tristesse Globale