Röyksopp - The Understanding
Perhaps scared of being labelled the Norwegian kings of chill, or having music condemned forever to car ads, Röyksopp's second album is a more vocal-based and upbeat affair than their fine debut.
That said, The Understanding isn't entirely without instrumentals. It begins and ends with complementary pieces based around piano hooks. In between there's the Kraftwerkian push 'n' pulse of Sombre Detune and, easily the best of these, the epic Alpha Male, which continues the adventurous spirit of Röyksopp's Night Out. The rest of the record is given over to songs.
On Only This Moment and Follow My Ruin (shades of Banarama's Cruel Summer?) it's as if the duo have found the happy button and aren't afraid to push it, making for perfect, euphoric electronic pop. At other times, it's as if they've found a button and aren't afraid to push it. Mostly, singing duties are handled by the boys themselves and one Kate Havenik, although a couple of the more diverting tracks are handed over solely to guests: 49 Percent, featuring Chelonis R. Jones, has a refreshingly funky vibe, and What Else Is There? an alien female vocal, courtesy of Karin Dreijer.
Compared to Melody A.M., there is a lack of intrigue and atmosphere. Instead of expanding on the dense sonic bubblebath of A Higher Place or the electronic wig out of Eple, this time round Röyksopp have delivered a rather too homogenous pop album. The Understanding has some excellent moments, but ultimately feels more like a sidestep than a progression.