“The overarching thing with ‘Profound Mysteries’ is to trigger your imagination – to get your senses going,” Röyksopp’s Sven Berge recently told NME of the Norwegian electro duo’s mission statement for their new double album project. The pair have mastered the art of painting vivid scenery and moodscapes better than most dance acts. Their peak arrived with their now-seminal 2001 debut album ‘Melody A.M.’, an immaculate collection of blissed-out, ambient chill-house with a crystalline sound and Balearic backbeats; it somehow sounded like it was coming from both Bergen and Ibiza at the same time.
First instalment ‘Profound Mysteries’, released in April, is meant as a reintroduction to the duo after the somewhat bleak and death-obsessed 2014 predecessor ‘The Inevitable End’. As such, it’s anchored by laidback moments such as the glacially instrumental ‘(Nothing But) Ashes’ and the low-key, Gorillaz-y jam ‘The Ladder’. Then there’s the spacey but arresting mood piece ‘How The Flowers Grow’, featuring 4AD signee Pixx, and collabs with Norwegian sad-pop queen Susanne Sundfør (the bittersweet ‘The Mourning Sun’ and the towering, ABBA-sized Scandi melancholy of ‘If You Want Me’).
It’s lifted however, by ravier moments such as the Beki Mari-starring dancefloor destroyer ‘This Time, This Place…’, the infectiously radio-friendly ‘Impossible’ – which features electro royalty Alison Goldfrapp – and ‘Breathe’ with rising Nordic popster Astrid S. This is the mood that paves the way for ‘Profound Mysteries II’, a 10-track romp that “points to the inspirational genres and artists who helped to forge us when we were kids,” as Berge told us.
Opener ‘Denimclad Baboons’ lathers that Röyksopp squelch over trip-hop beats and tones of ‘90s rave. Astrid S lends more sultry vocals to the beachside bliss of ‘Let’s Get It Right’ and ‘Unity’ belongs on a sweaty Madchester dancefloor. ‘Oh, Lover’, meanwhile, marries a Daft Punk disco stomp with a retro-futuristic romance and ‘Control’ fuses the house stylings of Adamski with Kraftwerk. There’s eclecticism elsewhere too: ‘Tell Him’, again with Sundfør, exudes a more traditional Fleetwood Mac approach but ‘Some Resolve’ has all the synthy shimmer of a truly almighty Depeche Mode sci-fi meltdown.
It’s a satisfying ride. This smooth and consistent journey through nostalgia and the energy of new ideas means that ‘Profound Mysteries’ parts one and two stand up as latter-day career triumphs for Röyksopp. Taken as a whole, it’s certainly their finest collection of music since ‘Melody AM’ – and the opening of a bold new chapter.
Release date: April 29 and August 19 respectively
Record label: Dog Triumph