Röyksopp – The Inevitable End (Dog Triumph, 2014)
The Scandinavian, or should I go with Northern, approach to electronic music, even in its most popular and mainstream form, is pretty interesting. All those perfectly produced sounds, with their tiny details – melodies and lyrics, structured with an almost sadistic precision, which makes them ultimately catchy but at the same time completely soaked in the inevitable sense of distance and cold, which all art from this region carries. So even if I still can’t really believe I actually did write what you’re about to read, when last week Raya put the new Röyksopp on the table I was like… why not?
After a number of spins, ‘The Inevitable End’ is still a record I’m not so certain where to shelve. The Norwegian electronic / pop duo have taken their music pretty much on each and every musical or aesthetical borderline you can think of, even if they’ve successfully masked it as yet another pop record. Maybe I did overlisten to it, but I’m pretty sure there’s really something more lying beneath.
The album kicks in with ‘Skulls’, a piece which I’m not so sure should have made it to an album or just stayed a live intro. However, even in its short length it has most of what you’ll find in the album – warm analog synth lines, simple but punchy rhythmic structures and nicely decorated voices.
What I believe is the best about this album is that it perfectly works in whatever setting you decide to experience it. Röyksopp themselves claim ‘The Inevitable End’ was meant for listening at home, on headphones but I’m pretty certain the duo can pull up a blast of a live show from all those thick basses, clean beats and uber catchy melodies (both in the vocals and in the synth line). Especially with a smart live arrangement and a full-scale band this will be a killer. And I’ll certainly exchange any headphone experience for that.
So yeah, an intimate pop album, how about that?
Another thing Röyksopp have been bold enough to radically play around with is the overall feel of the record. ‘The Inevitable End’ is at most parts so close to being cheesy, it’s not real, but it manages to hold its ground. It just briefly messes with your head (check out ‘Save Me’) and then the songs completely transform. The brutally radio friendly melody becomes an uplifting detail in a rich and lively soundscape. Above voices are layered, led by beats in a super intelligent sonic puzzle. In just a blink of an eye you go from ‘What the hell?’ to ‘Wait… what?’
As I mentioned earlier, ‘The Inevitable End’ sounds so considered and measured (musically), it’s almost painful. At least I prefer to interpret its factious simplicity as a maniacal attention to the detail and pop minimalism. Yes, that’s my version of it.
My only problem with the album is its length. No matter how many potentially hit pieces you have there (and here you have quite a number of them) 1+ hour is too much for a pop album, actually for any album nowadays. Röyksopp could have cut the Daft Punk-ish intro / outro tracks and let the thing become more of ‘I want to hear it again’ and not ‘This still the same album going?’
PS. I just reviewed a ‘pop’ record.
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