Lets pass an idle hour in the Röyksopp club. They’ll take you on an adventure through sight and sound to an atmosphere brimming with the ‘dark secrets and distorted memories’ of those days long past. Röyksopp know their music. More than anything else they know what they want to create, and how they’re going to make it. So don’t stall or dither on your journey into their sonic landscape but open your eyes and see all you have to see.
Senior, the instrumental counterpart to the 2009 Junior, is the autumn to its spring. As the days get colder you are forced indoors to meditate on those more nonchalant hours of a carefree life. Though indeed nostalgia comes hand in hand with loss, it is also partnered with a heightened sense of perception, irrelevant to all but those who knew it. And as Brutland speaks (to Jude Rogers of the Guardian in 2009) “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have a hint of nostalgia to them…experiencing nostalgia is almost like a meditative thing, having that bit of colour in your brain from the past that filters through your decaying memory. It is strange, but it is very real, and that is what music should be all about.”
Indeed, that is what music should be all about.
Röyksopp is Svein Berge and Torbiørn Brundtland, children of the spectacular northern Norwegian scenery of Tromsø who made their ascent into the music industry all the way back in 2001 with their debut Melody AM.
Since then they’ve been climbing. The Understanding (2005) peaked at no. 2 on the Top Electronic Albums Chart while Junior peaked at no. 4. Senior however is a different flavour to their latest trend of accessible electro-pop, showcasing an altogether more ambient tone.
The absence of words to this album, its instrumental tendencies, makes it both volatile and highly reflective. But in comparison to Junior it is not an album to listen to as much as an album to experience. Röyksopp emphasises the importance of the album as a whole. No track is a highlight, no track should be regarded outside the context of its original place in the album. In the style of Dark Side of the Moon it should be listened to in its intended order – in the era of shuffle and playlists it is a brave suggestion. But regardless it should nonetheless be adhered to.
The dark tales of Senior is an innovative use of sound music, the magical energy of a space spinning out of control. Coming Home is the ceaseless beat of the metronome colliding with the euphoric electronics of a Highschool Lover type harmony. While the jarring supersonic interference of The Drug is as ominous as its clip of girls wandering through wastelands that deserve to remain deserted. Its mood rendered sinister once again can breathe, as the aloofness of the beat, momentarily paused, resumes.
But essentially, Senior is characterised by the muted sensibility of remembrance, forcibly endowed by the two most developed tracks of the album. Senior Living is a tribute to black and white daytime television, the curtains drawn in the musty living room on the afternoon warmth of the day outside. The melancholic melody of the steel guitar and the chorus of violins, have us close our eyes and lean back in the armchair as our thoughts fade seamlessly into memories of cubby houses in the backyard. The Alcoholic, as confirmed by Berge, is the ‘the hobo who hitchhikes on trains, and travels from place to place…he’s not an alcoholic in that sad way one would think of an alcoholic. He is much more of a drifter and dreamer…” The gradual crescendo of the friendly cyclical melody confirms the aptness of this description as the listener is whirled into the world of the alcoholic, tasting the freshness of the rain as the birds chant from the trees.
In the promotion of their album, Röyksopp ‘delivered’ a short film titled Röyksopp’s Adventures in Barbieland. Truly as bizarre as it sounds, it features not only many of the songs from the album but the duo in full costume as (unsurprisingly really) a sleeping hobo and an old man. If you haven’t yet engaged with these Norwegian mavericks, it’s surely time that you joined in.
Highlights :: “The Alcoholic”, “The Drugs” and "Senior Living"