Music

Röyksopp: Melody A.M.

Ari Levenfeld

Aside from the obvious comparisons to Air, or any other European down-tempo impresario, they wear their affection for pure pop sound producing on their parkas.


Röyksopp

Melody A.M.

Label: Astralwerks
US Release Date: 2002-10-15
UK Release Date: 2002-08-12
Amazon
iTunes

Melody A.M., the debut CD from Norwegian electronica duo Röyksopp has a variety of uses. As the title implies, this is not a bad choice to pop into the stereo first thing in the morning. Listen to this while you're waking up, brushing your teeth, or on your way to work. It won't yell at you or make any quick, unsettling movements. It's also a fitting choice as the last disc you listen to in the morning -- the sort of morning that comes after an intentionally sleepless night. It's medicinal qualities make it an excellent choice to turn on as you wind down and fall asleep, just as the sun is coming up. Given Röyksopp's origins in the far Northern latitudes of Norway, perhaps this isn't surprising. In a land where summer days are absurdly long, and winter nights are frighteningly dark, it helps to have some sort of musical chronological indicator to help plow through bouts of seasonal affected disorder.

Röyksopp is made up of two electronic musical tailors, Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge, who grew up together in Tromsø, Norway. They shared a childhood friendship, an admitted fascination with Burt Bacharach and an affinity for Norwegian easy listening music (whatever that is). What they've created is a fantastic chill-out album that manages to be warm and cozy, not to mention unique. There's no doubt that many of the tracks on Melody A.M. are destined to appear on all of this year's finest down-temp electronica compilations. That's terrific news for Röyksopp, as it inevitably generates a fresh round of interest in their lush album in the months to come.

Aside from the obvious comparisons to Air, or any other European down-tempo impresario, they wear their affection for pure pop sound producing on their parkas. In fact, "So Easy" the first track on Melody A.M. borrows unabashedly from Bobby Vinton's "Blue on Blue". But even if you couldn't hear the distorted notes, you'd know that it did.

It's almost as if Brundtland and Berge are trying to build an electronic version of the Brill Building, which fell out of favor when the British Invasion overtook American pop charts in the mid-'60s. Those invaders stormed our shores armed with what was then the dregs of American music -- turn of the century blues that no one in the U.S. of A. was listening to. Now the Norwegians are invading, this time with a truckload of sweet and sour pop tunes that fell out of favor two generations ago. Their tunes are built on seemingly simple rhythms and melodic hooks. But listen closely and you'll hear a continuously evolving composition that demands your attention until the end of the song.

The aforementioned title track, "So Easy", exemplifies this idea. It begins with the synthetic sound you might find in the introductory screen to a video game. Then marching rhythm kicks in, reminiscent of military parade high-stepping. I may have spent too much time living in Northern California, but the transitions in the tune sound like a bong being cleared. Not that you need to be medicated to appreciate the richness here.

"Eple", which follows, begins with a series of sweet technological beeps that sound like R2-D2 remixed. The song never quite falls into tune, which is why it's hard to stop listening to it. While "In Space" could be taken from a movie soundtrack. It's the type of song that's good for laying around and daydreaming about doing ordinary tasks in slow motion.

Melody A.M. isn't all sweet electronic nothings blown in your ear. "Poor Leno" and "Remind Me" make use of Erlend Øye's cabaret vocals layered over straightforward Casio loops. Meanwhile Anneli Marian Drecker lends her voice, strained through a vocoder, to "Sparks", a slow R&B Sunday drive of a tune.

"Röyksopp's Night Out" is dramatic and kitschy at the same time, with an extra helping of funky seventies guitar, smudged out like a charcoal drawing. Where "She's So" includes a film noir saxophone that will have you wondering when the Humphrey Bogart voiceover begins.

Röyksopp is masterful at generating good, mood music. You can leave it on in the background for a thousand years while you go about your business and live your life. But Meldoy A.M. is also better than that. There are powerful ideas here that take some time for the group to develop. Give it some time, and the album will grow on you. You may even find yourself listening to it when you have absolutely nothing else to do.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.