When Röyksopp released their third studio album Junior a year ago, it was revealed to be not only an enthusiastic and fresh sounding dance record but also one of the better albums of 2009. The pulsating rhythms, the near-faultless quality of guest vocalists (which included Fever Ray, Lykke Li and Robyn) and the sensation of euphoria was comforting. From the singles of Happy Up Here and The Girl And The Robot to It’s What I Want, it felt like 45 of the happiest minutes of dance music; guaranteed to make you smile and enjoy yourself in equal measure.
If Junior was the album to make you move in the nightclubs, then Senior is the sound of the after hours. It’s not so much a fourth album but a ‘counterpart’ to Junior, as the band themselves have described it. It will certainly come as a shock to those who massively enjoyed Röyksopp a year ago; gone are the tub-thumping rhythms and the pop melodies, and even the guests are nowhere in sight; in comes more focus on creating sound textures and ambient instrumentals. It’s a very abrupt mood change and, as such, the album can only really be best enjoyed when winding down.
It won’t make an impression on the first listen and whether or not you’ll really be able to get to grips with it will depend on your mood. The Drug is built around a hypnotising synth line and minimalist beats whilst Forsaken Cowboy is a tempo shuffling number, restrained and very close to the downtempo and moody sound they achieved on their 2001 debut, Melody AM. The Fear creates an unsettling and eerie vibe but even that sounds vaguely reminiscent of earlier work; which is, incidentally, one of two major setbacks with Senior.
Making a counterpart to another album, rather than just a remixes and/or outtakes compilation, is a rather fine idea and one that is certainly achievable. But too many moments here remind the listener of past triumphs, and fail to bring in much that’s new or interesting. It also has the problem of being released after Junior in the first place, which was always going to make its life difficult.
As the finale A Long, Long Way concludes and winds down it’s hard not to feel disappointed. Senior is not a bad album; there are some genuinely well thought out moments of ambience that make for an enjoyable listen, but the same can’t be said for the entirety of the album. Instead, it’s maybe a little older and a little wiser than Junior but it just isn’t anywhere near as much fun.