Röyksopp's debut, Melody A.M., was a breath of fresh air. It had a lightness and breeziness to it that set it apart from the many dance/electronica releases. Now the duo, made up of Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge, go for a very different sound on their sophomore release The Understanding. It's darker than their last release but just as much fun to listen to.
One of the major changes from their last album is the heavier reliance on vocals. Not only do Röyksopp write the lyrics for most of the songs, they now provide the vocals, too. The album's first single, "Only This Moment," is a good example of this new approach. Over a club-ready beat, the duo (along with newcomer Kate Havnevik) sing about the uncertainty of relationships: "Only this moment/ Holds us together/ Close to perfection/ Nothing else out there/ No one to guide us/ Lost in our senses/ Deep down inside I know our love will die."
"Follow My Rain" is a funky, pop-inflected jam that should be on many DJs' playlists. Chelonis R. Jones adds smooth vocals to "49 Percent," a song that sounds inspired by the duo's tours with Basement Jaxx.
The other major change between albums is the overall sound. The Understanding is faster and funkier than Melody A.M. and has its share of haunting moments. "Triumphant," the album's instrumental opener, acts like a bridge between the two albums. It starts off with a slow piano but by the end becomes a wonderful, mid-tempo jam. Karin Dreijer from The Knife lends her vocals to the eerie "What Else Is There?" "Someone Like Me" is probably the song that comes the closest to anything on Melody A.M. It's a smooth, laid-back song that sounds sort of like a much funkier version of something from Air's Talkie Walkie.
The Understanding is a great album and a pleasant surprise. Röyksopp could have easily stayed within the style they established on Melody A.M. and created another good album. However, they made the gutsier move of going for a completely different style, one that could have backfired miserably. Fortunately, this album succeeds in redefining this duo. The lyrics are just as good as the beats and I foresee hearing several of this album's tracks in the clubs.
If Melody A.M. represented the bright sunny atmosphere of morning, then The Understanding represents the atmosphere and mood of the night life.
Röyksopp's The Understanding hits stores on July 12 in a regular edition and a limited edition with a bonus disc.