Röyksopp – The Inevitable End (album) (Cooking Vinyl)
This month Norwegian electronic music legends Röyksopp will be releasing their fifth and final album, The Inevitable End. “What?!” we hear you gasp. Fear not, Röyksopp are not going anywhere.
Having now created five complete bodies of work, the pair feels that the future is open to being more experimental with how they share their music. “We feel like this is a goodbye to the traditional album format,” explains Svein. “In our consecutive run of albums, we have been able to say what we want to say and do what we want to do with the LP. We’re not going to stop making music, but the album format as such, this is the last thing from us.”
Comparing the duo’s final album The Inevitable End and their classic 2001 debut Melody AM is like comparing chalk and cheese. Gone are the playful melodies, grooves, and hip-hop-inspired beats of tracks like Epie and So Easy, the soulful, jazzy trip-hop of Sparks and She’s So, as well as the straight-up and distinctively early 00’s house of Poor Leno. But it’s almost 15 years since Röyksopp’s debut and so, as one might expect, the records are different in almost every possible way. In fact, the four years between their debut and the 2005 sophomore The Understanding demonstrated how far the duo had moved away, leaving behind the downtempo/chill vibes and delving deep into pop and dance.
In several ways The Inevitable End is like a fusion between pop of The Understanding and the quirky, squelchy electro-pop of 2009’s Junior – taking the best elements of both records and creating a solid, needle-eye focused electronic-pop record.
The Inevitable End is Röyksopp’s most personal album to date, moving into darker subject matters, exploring darker moods, and with an emphasis on lyrical content.
From the first bars of opening track Skulls, the album’s tone is set. A dark, mid-paced, krautrock-inspired number that’s unmistakably Röyksopp, Skulls features the duo’s distinctive, squelchy, pitch-bending melodies backed by a booming kick-drum. Like so much of the duo’s work, Skulls is so textured, it’s almost tangible. While all but three of the twelve tracks featuring guest vocalists, the robotic/vocoder vocal here helps colour the song’s dystopian world.
The anthemic Monument follows next, a song which appeared on the Do It Again EP – the collaboration between Röyksopp and Robyn. The version here, however, is vastly different, and – dare we say – superior. Where the EP version was meandering and mood setting, the album version, while still retaining the moodiness, locks into a mid-pace stomp, showcasing the duo’s song craft finesse. With its motorik rhythms, fat, buzzing synths paired and Robyn’s layered sugar-coated vocals, Monument is pure Scandinavian pop bliss.
The Postal Service-esque dreampop of Sordid Affair is characterized by gentle melodies, lush, synth-pads, and the hushed vocals of Ryan James from Man Without Country. Soothing and serene electronica with a beat that sits in the pocket, the song’s weightlessness and grace creates a sensation as if floating on clouds.
Sordid Affair leads perfectly to another equally serene number – the moving You Know I Have To Go. Comprising just synth pads, a heartbeat-like kick drum, and the emotive vocals and lyrics of Jamie McDermott of The Irrepressibles, You Know I Have To Go is a melancholy-tinged ride spanning 7-and-a-half minutes, calling to mind – perhaps oddly – Elbow.
Save Me, a sonic delight of krautrock-inspired synth textures paired with electro-pop, is the record’s first uptempo number – even so it’s still shrouded in the album’s dark shadow. Led by Susanne Sundfør’s irresistible vocals, Save Me is a pop tune that doesn’t quite go for the jugular but where its hooks are restrained by the song’s moodiness.
Save Me is bookended by two of four tracks led by the aforementioned Jamie McDermott: You Know I Have To Go on one side and album highlight I Had This Thing on the other. I Had This Thing is the first track that truly lures the listener to the dance floor courtesy of its four-to-the-floor beat. With its 80’s flavours and anthemic club vibes, I Had This Thing sounds like we’ve come to expect from Robyn. Sweeping pads with a punchy kick in a world of its own, Jamie’s softened vocals are the perfect condiment to this delicious dance floor tune. The EQ work at 3:30 turns down the drive but sets up a build which occurs over the next 45 seconds with the line “I never meant to let you go” repeated over. I Had This Thing is a bona fide hit. Expect this to be remixed a hundred times over.
Rong, featuring Robyn on vocals for second and final time, is more segue than a fully formed song. An angry and solemn two-and-half-minute track that’s essentially made up of just a bassy arpeggio and Robyn repeating the line “what the fuck is wrong with you?”. Rong leads to another moody number, Here She Comes Again, which has a brilliant half-time groove you can’t help but sway to. Sparingly produced with delayed, reverb-saturated keys and swells leading the charge, the strings that fade in and out around 2:25 add a lovely touch of class.
Personal album highlight is the gorgeous Running To The Sea, which we reviewed back in November of 2013. There’s something about Susanne Sundfør singing the line “I remember running to the sea, alone and blinded by the fear… / falling to my knees…” that’s so melancholic and moving. A heartfelt and nostalgia-inducing dance-pop song, Running To The Sea is simply stunning.
Compulsion keeps the bounce of the previous track going but with a vocal delivery and mood similar to that of Massive Attack circa Heligoland. The key to this track is its delicate touches, changing ever so slightly over the course of 7-minutes. Listen to what happens at 4:50: the tempo drops right down into complete silence, before the beat and tempo return some 10 seconds later bringing with it a haunting, melancholic synth melody. Oh, that chord progression – oh, so beautiful. The combination of atmospheric pads and progressive house kick lead us to believe Compulsion would translate well into one of Sasha’s sets.
The atmosphere is taken further on the deeply moving Coup De Grace – a cinematic and beatless synth-and-string track that features an epic operatic choir and sounding very much like the score to a summer blockbuster like Noah or Oblivion.
Final track Thank You is a retro-funk tune driven by a funky bass line and robotic vocals, thus resulting in a sound that recalls early Daft Punk. The piano chords and melodic breaks are lovely but there’s a definite sadness to the track, as if the robot machine is waving us a final goodbye.
And on that note, what a way to bow out in terms of releasing albums.
Overall, The Inevitable End is a downtempo record, nuanced to perfection and just simply lovely to listen to. Aside from a handful of moments which will have the listener involuntarily swaying, The Inevitable End is more a passive and immersive electronica record than a dance floor filling one. Certainly one of 2014’s best records and next to Melody AM, the duo’s best record.
The Inevitable End will be released 10 November, 2014.
Tracklisting and vocalists:
2) Monument feat. Robyn (T.I.E. Version)
3) Sordid Affair (Ryan James, Man Without Country)
4) You Know I Have To Go (Jamie McDermott, The Irrepressibles)
5) Save Me (Susanne Sundfør)
6) I Had This Thing (Jamie McDermott, The Irrepressibles)
7) Rong (Robyn)
8) Here She Comes Again (Jamie McDermott, The Irrepressibles)
9) Running To The Sea (Susanne Sundfør)
10) Compulsion (Jamie McDermott, The Irrepressibles)
11) Coup de Grace
12) Thank You
Watch the video for Monument below:
Listen to a preview of the track Skulls below: