The Understanding

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When the Norwegian production duo Röyksopp dropped their first album, Melody A.M., it sounded as though they were on a stopover from another planet. Otherworldly samples and a crisp production sense combined to make the singles "Eple" and "Sparks" perfect examples of the downbeat form and near-ubiquitous inclusions on chillout compilations. As electronica artists from Biosphere to Boards of Canada had proved before them, a life away from the mainstream -- say, in the extreme northern climes of Europe -- was easily capable of freeing an artist from the demands of trendiness. Their second album, The Understanding, reveals a different focus: fascination with all manner of radio-ready European dance. Yes, Röyksopp are all grown up now. In their quest for maturity (as well as the ears of busy shoppers all over the Northern Hemisphere), the duo changed their distinctive sound in the process. The single "Only This Moment," a post-connubial duet between male and female, could perhaps have heralded the comeback of a middle-aged Aqua, while on "49 Percent" the duo struggle to emulate Underworld's "Pearls' Girl" (while a bewitching vocal from Chelonis R. Jones rescues them from the brink). Nods to synth pop (Depeche Mode, Soft Cell), disco (Moroder), and electronica (Daft Punk, Boards of Canada) simply accentuate the overall mood, that Röyksopp have little left to say aside from what others have said more clearly in the past.

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