Röyksopp is one of those projects that has many faces and styles, but I’ve liked everything I’ve heard from them thus far. I can’t help myself, then, but to talk about their new album, Profound Mysteries. It released on April 29th, and I’ve really been enjoying it.
Röyksopp is a duo from Norway comprised of Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland. They’ve been making music since 1998. Hearing their work, it surprises me greatly that they haven’t broken through into the US market all that much. I feel that they should have long ago.
The duo plays electronic music that is typically more reserved, even downtempo at times. They dabble in ambient just as much as they dabble in house music, though their most popular songs are probably their synth-pop ballads. On this particular album, they also include guests Susanne Sundfør (their frequent collaborator), Alison Goldfrapp, Beki Mari, Pixx, and Astrid S. Typically, their albums are around half instrumental pieces and half true songs with vocals, and that is the case here, too.
I’ve started to understand what I like about Röyksopp, at least in contrast to similar artists, such as Daft Punk or deadmau5. Röyksopp has a sense of class and artistry in their work that I don’t sense in the others. Their music, like I mentioned, is often sober and downtempo, and it relies less on bass and beat, and more on true melody. They also recruit top tier vocalists, like Sundfør, to bring their songs to life. Many of their more electronic tunes have subtle hooks and fantastic synth tones, and so their music is simply satisfying and soothing to hear for me.
Profound Mysteries, by all accounts, is a great record. No, I’m not obsessed with it or anything, but I really enjoy it. That’s probably the most perfect descriptor of my relationship with it. I enjoy some songs more than others, but all of them are wonderful, ranging from pleasant to masterful.
You know that I am a big fan of Susanne Sundfør, so her contributions are obviously my favorites. She sings on “If You Want Me” and “The Mourning Sun”, both fantastic tracks. The former is probably my favorite of the two with its emotional vocals set against a subtle and beautiful electronic aura. It grows and evolves, though, pulling me more and more into the song. I always appreciate that Röyksopp tends to scale back their music when they involve Susanne, which allows her voice to shine. “The Mourning Sun” is an ambient piece, stark and surreal. Susanne is only on it certain moments, but that’s the point: the piece is haunting and misty like the dawning sun. It is sad and colorful and human.
One of my other favorites is Alison Goldfrapp’s “Impossible”. This song is striking, to say the least. It has the groove, the electronic edge, and the strong vocal hooks to be the center piece of the album. It just gets better as it completes its 6-minute runtime, adding layers of complexity and groove. I love it. I also like “The Ladder”, an instrumental piece; it has lots of subtle melodies and twists to it that make it incredibly memorable.
Those are the standout tracks for me, but I also like the bombastic “This Time, This Place…” and the poignant elusiveness of “How the Flowers Grow”. Overall, I think the first half of the album is the strongest, as the hits just seem to keep rolling. Still, there isn’t a weak track on the album.
Röyksopp has long held my interest with their sense of melody and mystery. I love how off-the-wall their music can get, but also how reserved and understated it can be. Their album are always beautiful, period. Profound Mysteries is a diverse album that also feels quite unified, and, like I said, I really enjoy it.
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