Róisín Murphy has very little to prove at this stage. A solo artist for 15 years since the demise of Moloko, she’s produced consistently inventive, genre-bending material. Her last two records – Hairless Toys and Take Her Up To Monto, made with Eddie Stevens – combined irresistible grooves with a theatrical quality that perfectly suits her delivery. But Róisín Machine, an album-length collaboration with Richard Barratt (aka DJ Parrot aka Crooked Man), brings a house-influenced sound to proceedings, born of a series of 12″ singles complete with remix packages which have long whetted fans’ appetites.
Simulation, first released all the way back in 2012, kicks the album off with a thumping mid-tempo beat and a luscious electric piano loop, hypnotically repetitive vocals presaging an auto-tuned middle section where the track unfurls beyond its rhythmic confines. When the beat finally returns it is triumphant, a swirl of effects adorning the minimal yet dominant arrangement. It sets the tone for the rest of the record: Murphy is less concerned about conventional structures, instead riding the wave and letting the instrumentation develop at its own pace in the manner of a vintage disco 12”.
That’s certainly not to say that Róisín Machine is poorly paced; far from it. The longer running times of this album give performances on tracks like Something More the gravitas they need (“A crown upon my head, young lovers in my bed, but I want something more / A private restaurant serving every dish I want, but I want something more”). And as a nod to this, the album comes with bonus extended versions that will be a delight for any DJ worth their salt.
The album is mixed seamlessly, the reverb-laden fade out of Simulation blending into the ominous synth chords of Kingdom Of Ends and a lone clap keeping the beat alive between glitchy, bass-driven We Got Together and the aforementioned Murphy’s Law. This is an impressive feat considering how disparate the material is; already a classic, the funky-bassed Narcissus – with a self-directed video seemingly channeling Raffaella – changes things up again, unfolding compulsively into pure disco joy.
On an album filled with characteristic flamboyance and flair, Murphy’s Law is perhaps the most understated tune here. The track concerns failing attempts to get over an ex, and the titular reference – “everything that can go wrong will go wrong” – lends a contemplative air, a feeling of fate, to the song’s tasteful backing tracks. A crunchy chord sequence bounces off a 4×4 beat, with additions such as vibraphone and laser-esque percussive sounds to flesh out the mix, Murphy described it as “our crack at a straight up, straightforward, no-frills, disco standard”, and it certainly succeeds on that basis.
Jealousy – a track of 2015 vintage – has the energy of a runaway train, featuring a fidgety guitar riff from Ahzz’s New York’s Movin’, a delightfully squiggly synth line and Murphy demonstrating yet again her enviable skills as a house vocalist. Her delivery of the word ‘jealousy’ rises from a croon to a wail in the middle section, taking the listener on a euphoric climb before the bass swings back in. If it feels a little out of kilter with the rest of the record then that’ll be down to the more aggressive mastering, but it’s certainly a dynamic closer and – against colossal competition of late – one of her best singles of recent years.
Anyone who’s followed Murphy and Barratt’s careers to date already knows they’re a match made in heaven. Whereas Hairless Toys and Take Her Up To Monto often focused on a more torchlit presence, Róisín Machine sees the singer charismatic, confident and in control, and Barratt’s beats accompany that mood perfectly. Accept no imitations, this album has some of the best electronic music you’ll hear all year.