Chilled-out or downbeat acts swept through the electronic scene during 2001 and 2002, prompting dozens of identikit compilations, all conjuring up images of exhausted clubbers returning home early in the morning and enjoying a cup of tea or a smoke after a hectic night out. And although downtempo electronica had always been largely album-based, most of these trackmasters didn't do much on the full-length front. The Norwegian duo Röyksopp, however, displayed a careful hand with the boards on their 2001 debut Melody A.M.. Röyksopp balances the haunted atmospheres of Boards of Canada with the more traditional "songwriting" sensibility of downbeat specialists like Groove Armada or Koop. The opener is proof enough, with a chunky bassline undergirding the spooky, ethereal refrain from Bobby Vinton's "Blue on Blue" recorded by some long-forgotten vocal chorus. There's much of beauty on Melody A.M., very textured and imaginatively produced to sound like few of their contemporaries; it's saying much to even admit that Röyksopp is occasionally the equal of such otherworldly acts as Boards of Canada or Goldfrapp. They seem a bit too indebted to the gauzy synths of '70s soundtracks, but there are a few good exceptions, like the distinctly '80s sense of artificial ethereality to the closer, "40 Years Back/Come." Picking up the ball right about where Air dropped it after Moon Safari, Röyksopp produced one of the most intriguing downbeat albums of the year.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush