Royksopp : The Understanding - Limited 2-Disc Version Soundtrack Review
SRP: £14.99It is tough following up a great debut album with an equally good second release - almost as difficult as making decent sequels to solid first movies. Some artists build on their first album and produce more of the same, only better, sometimes they go in a completely new direction and prove themselves just as good at that, but some unfortunately take a step backwards rather than forwards. Massive Attack and The Prodigy pulled it off, Leftfield and Tricky didn't. Royksopp's first album, Melody A.M, was absolutely superb - one of the best chill-out albums of 2004 - and to top it would indeed be a difficult feat.
The reality is that they had a good try at having their cake and eating it, both venturing off into a different direction whilst at the same time giving you more of a same. The result of that is that they do not really succeed in either direction, but that does not make the album. On the contrary, it is still a good listen, it's just that it does somewhat stand in the shadow of their first effort. Track one was not a good choice to start, with a piano build-up but a very dark reward that immediately leaves you feeling unsettled. Thankfully the second track, the released single Only This Moment, brings the group back into ultimate uplifting chill-out music (despite some punchy bass), with solid male vocals reminiscent of Air, mixed with refreshingly fresh female vocals to make this into the only ambient duet that I have ever come across. Quality. 49 Percent takes a while to get going, but once it does, you can hear the same feel-good vibes building up as the bass continues to throb your living room and the track rolls to its conclusion. Unfortunately, things start to go downhill from here. Track four starts in the same slow-burning way, only this time fizzling out into nothing and coming across as slightly anticlimactic and five is just a poor copy of Only This Moment. Later on in the album we get a track reminiscent of Bjork, but somehow lacking, a Chris De Burgh-esque monstrosity and, eventually, return to blissful chill-out with Dead To The World, which would have been the perfect close to the album. Pity it does not end there but instead returns to the dark roots of the opening track for some more ominous piano tinkering. So the reality is that Royksopp did not top their superb debut with this follow-up album. In fact, this one is not even equal with it in overall standard, providing a couple of tracks that really have that uplifting feel to them and give you hope as to the rest, but simply getting worse from there on out. The end result is basically a little unremarkable. Hoping that the five bonus tracks would make up for any shortcomings of the second half of the first disc, I found myself mildly enjoyed but still a little unimpressed. Go Away was ok, oddly mixing Air with A-Ha to remarkably pleasant effect, Clean Sweep was just a complete Air rip-off and the other three tracks all had that same beat reminiscent of the score to one of the scenes from The Transporter (the bus station fight). Again, this was perfectly enjoyable background music but certainly nothing special enough to draw this level with the first album.
VerdictThis second album by Rokysopp simply does not live up to the standards that their breakthrough debut set. Despite maintaining a quality that reminds us of what has come before, it just never quite reaches the same highs and, even with two quality uplifting tracks, it generally remains distinctly average. It will still work for some nice ambient background music in the right situation, or even carry you through a chilled out afternoon, it is just not as perfectly melodious as what we have come to expect from Royksopp. As I've already stated, it's a tough deal following up such a brilliant debut. Presentation-wise, we get a second CD with several solid if uneventful bonus tracks - a nice addition, despite the fact that none of them particularly stand out either. Fans of their first effort may be a little disappointed but should catch a few tracks (or at least pick up Only This Moment on single and hope 49 Percent also gets released) to see if they like any particular one of them. If you really love what you find and become a fan of the album then this lovely double-CD is definitely a great edition to pick up.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99