A hair-raising eight years after the seminal Melody AM and some four since its successor, The Understanding, Röyksopp have deemed us worthy to enter their world once more. On this electrifying evidence, the wait was more than worth it.
The boys – Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge – reaped plaudits for these first two efforts, described by them as a “relaxed journey” and “melodic catchiness” respectively, and Junior is supposed to be a blend of the two. It also serves as a bold precursor to its sibling recording, Senior, released in just a few short months.
The album springs into life with first single, Happy Up Here, a moment of giggling signalling the beginning of a perfect slice of trip-pop, a funky Parliament sample providing the fuel and an apt lyric – delivered via vocoder and then simply yelled – the payoff: “I’m ready for it!”
It’s just the tip of the iceberg. Next single, The Girl And The Robot, featuring the increasingly impressive Robyn, is an utterly delectable bunny-boiling dance masterpiece, the blonde bombshell sending her psychopathic heartbreak soaring over a dirty disco backing.
Long-time Röyksopp collaborator, Anneli Drecker, is next in the cannily-measured list of cameos, her pitch-perfect falsetto clasping onto Vision One’s exquisite creaking synth line in one of the album’s many standout moments.
The Knife‘s Karin Dreijer appears on two tracks in Junior’s midsection, and her efforts ultimately provide the hooks with which it sways from your mind and refuses to release. This Must Be It sees her reverberate over polished house, the chorus reaching tantalisingly close to euphoria; Tricky Tricky tackles The Knife territory with aplomb, its curious turn of phrase and discordant progression upping the ante.
Between these spots the LP finds it soul as the devastatingly beautiful Röyksopp Forever ascends from gossamer-thin orchestral trip-hop to ethereal strings – as good as anything Röyksopp have ever done – then becoming the dramatic, stabbing, gothic theme to the best TV show never made. It’s absolutely thrilling.
It is with Drecker, however, that Röyksopp’s sound is most natural, and she makes a further two appearances in Junior’s home straight. You Don’t Have A Clue channels the first album’s Sparks with greater licence to soar; True To Life’s restless paranoia bungles the listener into filthy dub with style.
Brundtland and Berge seem to have a knack for crafting tracks and soundscapes that, while easy on the ear, are never anything less than fascinating – a feat all too tricky for all but the most accomplished of their peers. Their first two LPs had such qualities in spades, and they provide the foundations for Junior’s ascent into the aural stratosphere.
Anyone with even a passing interest in Röyksopp – whose ears have been pricked by an Eple or Poor Leno – could do far worse than immerse themselves in one of 2009’s greatest releases. And it’s only part one of two. Fancy that.