Röyksopp – The Inevitable End

Hot on the heels of the collaborative mini-album with Robyn, Do it Again, Röyksopp quickly reappeared with what they described as their last album “in this format”, The Inevitable End. Time will tell what they actually mean by that, but one can only guess that they were starting to find the two years off, two years on pattern of modern music somewhat stifling creatively. Hopefully they’ll come up with something else, rather than just disappear into obscurity, as others have before them.

But The Inevitable End is still an album that can be enjoyed on many levels. It opens with the darkly analogue sound of Skulls, hinting slightly in places at the glorious sound of their second album The Understanding (2005). The vocals are curious and heavily obscured by effects, but the overall sound is exceptional – this is a great way to enter an album.

Reworked from the Do it Again album comes Monument, now with an enormous analogue counter-melody, and sounding even better than it did originally. The standard here really is exceptionally high, and it continues, as Monument drifts into what might be the best track on this album, the adorable Sordid Affair, another piece which might have fitted beautifully on the second album alongside What Else is There?

There is an unmistakable air of introspection here. Melody AM (2001) was naïve and Nordic; The Understanding was mysterious; Junior (2009) was loud and powerful; and somehow The Inevitable End is all of those at once. But we don’t want to think of it as any kind of end, so you have to put those thoughts out of your mind.

You Know I Have to Go is the first of several collaborations on here with Jamie from The Irrepressibles, and introduces us to his exceptionally emotive voice. It’s the longest track on here, clocking in at seven and a half minutes, but it’s also quite exceptional. And then, with a bit of a bang, Susanne Sundfør turns up to deliver the brilliant Save Me. Like most of this album, it’s huge, powerful, and entirely unforgettable.

The enormous pads that herald I Had This Thing are entirely appropriate, as Jamie Irrepressible turns up to deliver an exceptional song. It was later released as one of the singles, and deservedly so – it’s absolutely brilliant.

If anything lets this album down, it’s Rong. Even then, it’s only a short and momentary blip, with Robyn suddenly and inexplicably swearing at listeners about how much she hates them. But never mind, Here She Comes Again quickly picks things up again.

A long time before this album appeared, Running to the Sea came along as its lead single, and I predicted great things for this album. Well, it’s always good to be proved right, but this song is still one of the most exceptional pieces of music that Röyksopp have ever recorded. An exceptional vocal from Susanne Sundfør, set to an enormous, moving backing track. This is truly faultless.

Any other artist could have given up after something like that, but for some reason Röyksopp keep going. All of the final three tracks, Compulsion, Coup de Grace, and Thank You are premium quality. What a send-off this is.

It would also be hard to mention this album without adding a word for the superlative second disc, with another five songs, some of which are more than deserving of a place on the main album. But let’s hope that this isn’t really the end, but if it does have to be, then it’s an amazing send-off.

 

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Chart for stowaways – 30 August 2014

Let’s jump forward a couple of weeks, so we can gradually work our way towards the present day. I was away in August, so the charts went a bit odd, but here are the singles from the final week of the month…

  1. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do it Again

  2. Shit Robot – Teenage Bass

  3. New Order – Confusion Remixes 02

  4. Jean Michel Jarre – La Cage

  5. Saint Etienne – Pocket Call

  6. Soulsavers – Longest Day

  7. Erasure – I Love Saturday

  8. Röyksopp & Robyn – Every Little Thing

  9. Gotan Project – El Mensajero

  10. The Irrepressibles – In This Shirt

Röyksopp – Running to the Sea

After a break of a couple of years, Röyksopp seemed to reappear from nowhere at the end of 2012, initially with just a live performance of a new track Running to the Sea, coupled with a cover version of Ice Machine. A year later, after having been an enormous hit in the meantime back home in Norway, it reappeared as a full single, with added remixes and extra stuff.

The lead track is inconceivably brilliant. Susanne Sundfør‘s vocal just seems to drift perfectly over a truly exquisite backing, which over the first couple of minutes builds with every bar to become something incredibly powerful and evocative. The lyrics perhaps aren’t the best ever, but there are some very memorable lines, and the melody more than makes up for it. Towards the end, a repeated snare sound turns up to punctuate the layers of sound, before it all falls apart at the end. If Röyksopp were good before, they might have just achieved legendary status.

The new b-side is Something in My Heart, featuring the quite incredible vocal performance of Jamie McDermott from The Irrepressibles. Perhaps unsurprisingly after the lead track, it’s another fine moment. It’s perhaps less joyous and more introspective than the lead track, but the chorus is extremely strong. More than good enough to be a single in its own right, this bodes extremely well for the next Röyksopp album.

Perhaps I’m showing my age, but I find it rare for a package of remixes to have many highlights these days. Often the remixers manage to completely miss the point of the original, or just go off on some self-indulgent flight of fantasy for ten minutes or so. Somehow though, on Running to the Sea, every track is brilliant.

The first remix, a 12-minute deep house odyssey from Pachanga Boys draws out every thread of the original and adds lots of extra bobbly electronic bits. The piano part doesn’t even turn up until seven minutes in, and the vocal never actually appears, but somehow all the feeling and energy of the original is retained.

Villa‘s remix is not hugely different from the original, in many ways – it adds a rhythmic house beat and a bit of extra background frippery, and the backing is perhaps a little more subdued, but otherwise it serves as a very good alternative version. The LNTG remix takes things in a slightly different direction, losing most of the instrumentation from the original, but is no less enjoyable, with its enormous analogue synth pads and deep electronic backing.

The Man Without Country remix is less outstanding – apart from a handful of elements from the original, the backing is mainly just a bit of drumming and reverb this time. DJ HMC‘s version is similar to Villa‘s in many ways, but brings in some nice new pad elements to turn the track into something slightly different. It burbles long with some very pleasant noises and the occasional “like breaking diamonds,” for a few minutes, and then reaches its natural conclusion.

Magnus & Timon‘s version is perhaps the weakest of the lot. It keeps plenty of elements from the original, but doesn’t seem to add anything particular to replace what it lost. The main crescendo is just a slightly noisy electronic mess. The final mix is probably the best of the lot – Seven Lions turns up to turn the original into something that sits somewhere between euphoric trance and dubstep. It’s an eclectic mix, and it’s also entirely brilliant.

Röyksopp‘s return to the world of music is a very welcome one, and it’s great to hear them turn up with such an exceptional set of remixes. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a new album soon.

You can find the original version of Running to the Sea at all major download stores, such as here, and the remixes are here.