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Röyksopp: "Junior"
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Designer music for the discerning crowd

The new Röyksopp offering is superior chillout and a stylized pop number... But is it something that nobody besides Röyksopp could have done?

Röyksopp takes the line pursued in "The Understanding" yet futher and ventures into the realm of pretentiousness, but just manages to redeem itself with glamorous drumbeats and flowing compositions. The music is crisp, funky and at the same time atmospheric and wonderfully melodic.

Even though all that is a good thing, it goes to such lengths that you almost get the feel that this is some kind of designer pop music for chillout enthusiasts, reduced to "street credible background music for parties". It fits so well into this niche, one might think it could have been made by any of the other groups already in this niche - not necessarily by Röyksopp.

In a way I feel Röyksopp is suffering from Air syndrome - their unique style made them such a runaway success that while trying to improve on their formula, they lost at least part of their original charm.

Ghosts of records past aside, what about "Junior"? A mix of fantastically high moods and big beats, sharply distorted synth melodies and booming basslines all laden with compelling hooks. Who could possibly argue?

The way the record starts up with the uplifting, deliciously naive big beat stylings of Happy Up Here perfectly sets the listener up. You might think of, indeed, Air, or perhaps Mylo, Mint Royale, Lemon Jelly, if you want an idea of what kind of moods to expect throughout. None of the mentioned are close matches - the closest is clearly "The Understanding" by Röyksopp. It's fair to say that Röyksopp has improved on the themes they worked with on that album.

The departure from the subtlety of "Melody AM", their first album, becomes most apparent on the second track, The Girl and the Robot. The 2000s dance anthem could almost be a Kylie Minogue track, if not for the slightly more evolved melodies. It's a nice track in its own right, but the comparison to Kylie is telling, and not something you'd have expected from Röyksopp 6 years ago. Still, the track does not feel out of place.

The rest of the album mixes triphop influences with big beat, electronica, pop and what have you in much the same way as "The Understanding" did. Similarities are evidenced on tracks such as This Must Be It (almost like a rearranged version of What Else Is There? from the previous album) or Tricky Tricky, the album's other clear dancefloor anthem (which scores extra points for a successful ending, by the way).

Trip hop moods are experienced on Röyksopp Forever and Silver Cruiser, both of which progress into quite the dramatic crescendos. An excellent Vision One, featuring some nice distorted synth leads, ventures more into the realm of RnB, but let's not hold that against a good track.

Overall the album is consistently enjoyable, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the tracks turn into summer hits this year. The album certainly does put me in a summer mood.

But does it have staying power?

Based on my experience from "The Understanding", I believe it does. The snipe about "designer music" isn't meant to belittle this album; even though Röyksopp has ventured into this direction, they still manage to stand out and keep the other chillout audio engineers at arm's length.

The real trial for Röyksopp may be their next album. If it is a linear progression of "Junior", Röyksopp is in danger of becoming common. Meanwhile, I can safely say that Röyksopp remains one of my favourite artists.


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Time: 04:25 / Uptime: 236 days, 16:57
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