This is thoroughly exciting stuff. Back in 2001, I bought Melody A.M. and have subsequently got it out every summer and given it a good listen but after four years, it was time for a follow-up.
In a time where some claim the 'death' of dance music, and where indie bands are invading dance festivals all over, groups like Royksopp are needed to keep the reputation of the genre respectable and in a year with so many good albums out all ready, there is quite a task in hand. Fear not. 'The Understanding' is awesome. In the space of four listens it has become my favourite dance album of all time and is the highlight of the year so far.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect at first, whether we we're going to get more of the same with 'Melody A.M.' pt 2. or not, but 'The Understanding' is a different beast altogether. Forget reams of subtle hazy beats and melodies, this album is one to dance to and it doesnt let up throughout. If 'Melody A.M.' was the album of a summer day, this is the album of the summer night. It all kicks off steadily with the piano-driven 'Triumphant' before going into the stunning 'Only This Moment' which is like a hot and sweaty Ibiza-born Eple. Following this is my personal fave, '49 Percent', which sounds equally epic and really grabs you by the throat with its hypnotic vocals and driving beats- its certainly not background music.
Now at this point when you're expecting it to ease up and give you a chill-out, it just doesnt. 'Boys' is quite indicative of the direction being taken by the lads at the moment and even has a dabble with acidy squelches and pushes the boundaries a bit. 'Follow My Ruin' is just as gutsy and, like every track, has its own presence, but fits in with the whole ethic of the album. 'Beautiful Day Without You' is the most laid-back so far and is the 'summer track' with familiar Royksopp features. Just as you've let your guard down, you're hit with 'What Else Is There?', which is unusual with distinct female vocals and a (seemingly recurrent) seriousness about it. 'Circuit Breaker' breaks down more barriers and is a pacy, beat-laden affair before the ambient epic 'Alpha Male' brings the album to its summit.
After all the serious dancing you've been doing throughout this, Someone Like Me is the start of the come-down and is familiar territory and could have fit on 'Melody A.M.' with its laid back, trademark tempo. Ending peacefully, 'Dead To The World' is like a dream with a melody ascending and descending behind easy vocals.
This album has clearly stretched the boys and is quality throughout (a lesson in how you spend three years on an album), making their live shows an even better prospect. Im eagerly awaiting the release of 'The Understanding' and it won't be leaving my cd player for some time. I can't imagine anyone not liking this, so get your orders in now and get excited!
on 6 June 2005
When you first hear this album you will probably be skipping through 9-8 out of the 11 tracks. This is exactly what I did. However, I gave it a few more listens for the last 2 days and now I have fallen in love with 10 of the tracks!
1)Triumphant - The album opens with a very Röyksopp style tune which would fit perfectly in "Melody A.M". It progresses very nicely and has a brilliant finale with a choir, heavy drums and synths. 8/10
2)Only This Moment - The first single to be released (and a very good choice too). This is the first vocal tune and features Royksopp themselves singing and a lovely female singing the chorus. Both voices work perfectly and make this tune an eargasmic experience. I fell in love with it instantly. However, it is slighty tedious which is a shame :( 9/10
3)49 Percent - At first I never gave this tune a chance, yet now I cant stop listening to it! It's a very simple song with funky beats and male vocals. It progresses well as each chorus builds up more and more with the introduction of female backing and pads. It's also fun to sing along to :D 10/10
4)Boys - Hmmmmm, the one tune on this album I'm still not sure about. I tend to still skip this one due to it's darker feel. It doesn't really go anywhere, but does have a great middle with horns and strings. :( 6/10
5)Follow my Ruin - YES! I love this tune (it was one of the 2 I didnt skip on first listening)! It starts of with a reverb beat and a funky bass enters. Male vocal dominates with female "aaahs". It's a song that makes you really want to dance! 10/10
6)Beautiful Day Without You - Another "Melody A.M" style tune, which I'm not too kean on. Like all the other tunes on the album, it has a lovely finale, funky guitars and great vocals. However, there is nothing special about it. 7/10
7)What Else is There - Main vocalist is a Bjork sounding female. At first I wasn't liking her voice, yet it has grown on me and now I really like it. It features lovely accoustic guitars and haunting piano chords and strings. This is a stand out track on the album. 10/10
8)Circuit Breaker - I instantly fell for this tune. It has very dominant beats and great male vocals. There are constant breaks in the tune which lead to the fabulous finale when the synth, pads and "aah" female vocal enter together. The tune takes you away as the female carries on and more melodies drop in and out. The only draw back about it is it's very sudden ending. 10/10
9)Alpha Male - Another instrumental track, which reminds me of "Killa" by "Way Out West". It has a 2min build up with woodwind instruments and fading in strings against a speeding up synth line without any beats. Everything sudden fades out and you are instantly reminded of "Röyksopp's Night Out". Pads and a heavy drum beat pounds throughout the tune. At the 6min mark you get a surprise with jumping synths and heavier drums. Although this tune is amazing, for some reason I never seem to want to listen to it (this is the same with "Killa") :S 10/10
10)Someone Like Me - Fans of "Air" will love this tune with it's French synths and soft vocals. It is a pleasure to listen to and seems more like a filler than a real tune. 8/10
11)Dead to the World - What a excellent way to end the album with a beautiful chillout track in true Röyksopp style. An arpeggio harmony throughout against a simple echoing bell melody. Soft male vocals enter half way through with long pads. I'm glad they included only one track like this, as "Dead to the World" is enough to satisfy anyone. 9/10
Conclusion: "The Understanding" is a brilliant return from Röyksopp and, in my honest opinion, it is better than "Melody A.M". However, fans who were drawn to Röyksopp's chilled tracks will be slighty dissapointed with the heavier, funkier feel to this album. In any case, I still highly recommend everyone to get this album and enjoy it :D 9/10 (nothing is perfect)!
on 26 September 2005
The first time I listened to this album I wasn't enthralled but then I remember feeling like this when I first heard their previous album Melody AM and I ended up loving that. This album is a grower.
After a playing it to death in my car I can honestly say that it gets better with every listen. It's a lot more upbeat than Melody AM overall although it does have it's chilled out tracks (Sombre Detune, Dead To The World).
My favourite track on the album is What Else Is There? The smooth silky melody, dark beat and 'Bjorkesque' guest vocalist make it a fascinating listen.
There isn't one bad song on this album. It's pure brilliance!
5 stars out of 5 and the rest!
on 12 July 2005
I really liked Melody A.M, but after I bought it I wouldn't of called myself a "huge fan" of Royksopp even though I loved the album. When I heard they were releasing a second album I was interested but didn't rush out to buy it. How stupid was I! I purchased this ablum yesterday after much contemplation, as I had heard mixed reviews. I am so glad I did because the album is simply amazing!
Ok its not exactly the same as Melody A.M but then why would want more of the same?? I think its great when artists change there musical style. And in fairness it DOES still sound like Royksopp so it doesn't feel like you are listening to a different artist altogether.
Many of the tracks are more commercial friendly, which prehaps means Royksopp are trying to appeal to a broader audience when they release singles. Current single "Only This Moment" is an example of this.
Stand out tracks are of course "Only This Moment" which is chilled but at the same time up-beat electro with dreamy vocals..."Follow My Ruin" (possible next single?) which is in the same vein of "Only This Moment" and is catchy and melodic... "Alpha Male" which is the most thumping electro and close to trance and teh album gets, this is one of my favourite tracks... "Dead to the world" is dreamy and relaxing and a very emotional track. To be honest every track is great on this album and I would recommend buying this album even if you are not a fan of Royksopp's previous work.
I don't think I have been taken in by an album as quickly as with "The Understanding" and I haven't even began to listen to the bonus 5 track cd yet!!
on 16 August 2005
The first time I heard the majority of this album was at a gig in London before the album was out. Although no one had heard tracks like Alpha Male, Beautiful Day... and Follow My Ruin, they were clearly great stuff.
As a follow up to Melody A.M. I was initially a little disappointed by the hint of R&B vocals in 49 Percent, but somehow I found myself hooked on this album for days on end until I came to realise it is utterly fabulous.
Although a slightly different direction with more of a vocal leaning, this is pure Röyksopp with happy melodies forming the foundation for sombre, melancholy lyrics (or just titles: "beautiful day without you"). The beauty of those lyrics would be spoiled by giving them away here.
The synths are perfect: not too many layers to swamp the tracks, but enough variety of texture to keep the listener interested.
Alpha Male is very much the new Röyksopp's Night Out, with hints of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd building up to a big, big track.
Other stand out tracks are What Else Is There with its beautiful guest vocals, Follow My Ruin with a mere hint at 70s funk and the instrumental Sombre Detune.
on 5 July 2005
I was much looking forward to this album, especially after the delights of their last album(melody a.m), but as with many highly anticipated thoughts on my first listen i just wasnt hooked. Had i overlooked something? Had i not been concentrating enough while listening? Had i let the excitement and the hype get to me? Well, the answer is no to all of the above, i just hadnt given it a fair chance. The Understanding is a good album, better than most, but its just not as good as melody a.m. However there are a number of brilliant tracks on the album and here is my rundown of each track--
1.Triumphant 8/10= One of the best tracks on the album. Once all its musical elements are in place it really is head nodding stuff with a catchy little piano riff. not long enough though and perhaps one too many cymbal clashes towards the end. Great beat.
2.Only this moment 9/10= Didnt like it as much as i do now from when i originally heard it but it grows on you. The lyrics are magical and give the tune that special key ingredient yet they are not overpowering which is important for this sort of music. Very much like thier stuff on melody a.m.
3.49 Percent 8/10= A more uptempo tune heavily focused on beats and the snare in it is quality. didnt like the lyrical arrangement though. sounds a bit like lemon jelly's new stuff from earlier in the year.
4.Sombre Detune 7/10= A very dark little number this with a good breakbeat and blip sounds but it soon becomes a little boring.
5.Follow my ruin 5/10= Ive noticed a lot of critics rave about this tune but i personally think it is the worst tune on the album. It doesnt seem to be coherant or orderly and has a familiar sounding beat which lacks punch.
6.Beautiful day without you 9/10= After a so/so start this album flows nicely to the finish and this track is definately beautiful. Lovely flowing rythms and interesting beat backed up with amazing singing.
7.What else is there? 10/10= Probably the best tune on the album. Imagine an orbital tune mixed by goldfrapp with bjork sounding lyrics and this would be the result. Kicks in sraight away with a catchy breakbeat and wonderful cinematic soundscapes and as the track progresses royksopp add little sounds and snares etc to the tune. good use of strings, just wanted this track to go on and on.
8.Circuit breaker 8/10= An uptempo track which is probably the best to have a dance to. Quite a silly little tune to be honest, royksopp letting thier hair down and having a bit of fun, like they did with poor leno, which ithough was a tad out of place but still a good tune on melody a.m.
9.Alpha male 10/10= This is where royksopp begin thier definition of what The understanding is all about. An epic 8 minute masterpiece which has an orbital/vangelis type begining and then turns into a progressive rock sounding track but still with an air of beauty and electronica rythms in the background to keep it authentic. Great bassline and like What else is there? royksopp add toms and pads at various stages of the track. Awsome!!
10.Someone like me 9/10= Back to the sound that made them famous, this a jazzy number with bassy guitar sounds that get you excited and another defining beat(claps used as the snare sound is not always agood thing, makes tunes sound cheesy, but in this case it works well) lyrics are subtle and easylistening funk is the order of the day with this track.
11. Dead to the world 8/10= Things start to gat laid back now and this is royksopp's homage to film scores. this is their classical composition which would have sounded just as good with a breakbeat behind it(i dreamt) Seriously though this is haunting stuuff and just as you finish listening to this track you realise "this album has been preety damn good".
12.Tristesse globale 8/10= To round everything off is another classical score. Itsounds a bit like the piano riff from the truman show but alittle tweak here and there. Fades out after about 2 minutes so a little pointless.
To summarise this album is very progressive and experimental which may put you off when you first listen to it, but it definately grows on you. You can't but help not let the sounds of royksopp engulf you, thats what they do and thats why they are the best electronical music makers since orbital. Believe me when i say, listen to both of thier albums one after the other(melody a.m first) and tell me you dont wanna hear thier third album! I'll bet you will want it to come out tomorrow!! Melody A.M. was more about working on the beats, where as Understanding is about the progression of the melodys and the sound scapes. And with both albums having some cracking tracks on them that combine the two together thier third album should be a strong contender for 10/10. Cant wait to sse these guys live at the jazz cafe. Go buy and enjoy the nordic duo!!
on 5 July 2005
I'm normally not one for reviewing albums - but this merits some (actually a lot!) of my time. Melody AM was a great intro to Royksopp - and this is a *superb* follow on album ! There are more vocals on this album, and there are some hints of Tangerine Dream in here as well; which makes for some amazing tracks. If you like Tangerine Dream, Lemon Jelly, Ulrich Schnauss, Zero 7 - you'll love this !
on 7 July 2005
Okay, so this doesnt give use the chilled relaxed sounds of ethereal Norway that we have come to expect from Royksopp. However the changed in tempo is greatly recieved, and has made this album, more accessible, but at the same time more complex. The level of production on this album is a lot higher, however, some songs let us down, such as Sombre Detune, and 49 Percent, other tracks, especially 'Follow My Ruin', 'What Else Is There' and 'Circuit Breaker', definately exceed anything Royksopp have done before. This is helped by the extensive use of more instruments, not just 'samplers and synths'(Or whatever electronic artists use), where the combination of real instruments and electronic sounds compliments the album superbly.
The radio single 'Only This Moment' may get you to believe this is another Melody AM, due to its similarity to Eple, but the rest of the album does not follow suit, and greatly surpasses my expectations. However this album was eagerly awaited by me, and many others, as my first album I bought was Melody AM, leading my music taste through the likes of Timo Maas, Groove Armada, and Way Out West.
You need this album, Royksopp deserve it's sale, after the effort that they have so evidently put into their Understanding. Keep listening to it, it gets better the more you listen, dont be quick to judge.
A really good album, their second, bought again to get the bonus EP which I missed first time out after buying the album on sight. I love it, and the chance to get five additional tracks at next to nothing wasn't going to be missed, they stand up to anything on the album itself. This is the version to buy if you like the trippy sounds of this cult band.
Four hit singles on the original album (Only This Moment; 49%; What Else Is There? and Beautiful Day Without You), standouts on an album lasting nearly an hour, are backed up with Go Away, Clean Sweep, Boys, Head and Looser now, an extra 24 minutes to enjoy. A mix of ambient and trip hop, there is lots of variety here to enjoy.
on 30 June 2015
Love these Kiddies, Great as a stand-alone Duo and do some awesome collaborations: Jamie Irrepressible (seen him live and Met him, ridiculously talented and he's a chuffing lovely human being!), Susanne Sundfor (oh please let me meet you!) Robyn (probably be a bit scared of meeting Robyn!) and many more.
Genre? thinking- persons electronica to out-and-out POP to dirty and dark darkliness of grungy yum yum! (it's a new thing, get with it).