The Understanding

Studio Album by released in 2005

The Understanding review

Royksopp's 2002 debut, Melody A.M., rightfully made the Norwegian duo stars in the world of dance and electronic music, spawning such hits as Poor Leno and Eple. The pair's knack for excelling amid a range of styles and approaches is even more apparent on The Understanding, which resists the temptation to overtly court the masses. Hipsters themselves, Torbjorn Brundtland and Svein Berge may have empathised, having evolved from a dance scene where cool is currency, but thankfully they haven't taken a blind bit of notice. The Understanding is even more melodious, lush and seductive than their million-selling debut, and likely to become even more ubiquitous. An inspirational dance set with delightfully pompous instrumentals, an emotionally soulful pop record with gothic dramatics and proper songs - The Understanding has the lot.

Following the instrumental opening, one is hit with two surprisingly driving tracks, Only This Moment and 49 Percent, that immediately indicate how pronouncedly different an album Royksopp has created. Shaking of the narcotic haze of analog synths that vibrates over the entire surface of Melody A.M., these songs come off as potential hits ready for the radio. Follow My Ruin and especially the frenetic Circuit Breaker provide moods far more impellent, and ultimately accessible, than any Royksopp had produced before. But this journey has more to it than just the upbeat. Fans who loved the chill-out music won't be disappointed, as there are some more relaxing moments offered through such songs as Someone Like Me and Beautiful Day Without You. Chelonis R. Jones brings soulful resonance to 49 Percent and The Knife’s Karin Dreijer offers an evocative, otherworldly turn on What Else Is There? But it’s the non-vocal tracks that leave a lasting imprint, with the jazzy, confidently expressive opener Triumphant and the elongated, Kraftwerk-pulsing Alpha Male earning the highest marks.

The Understanding is a well-conceived and deftly executed step out of the huge shadow cast by their ultra-bright debut. More alive and texturally diverse than electronic Melody A.M., The Understanding reveals Norwegian duo building on the percolating energy of Royksopp's Night Out and fearlessly expanding its musical boundaries. Melody A.M. may be a more unified listening experience, but The Understanding is considerably more invigorating. The Understanding is one of those bold sophomore efforts that will most likely split fans of the duo into two camps, with the Air/Boards of Canada downbeaters lamenting the new direction and the dance-oriented, Basement Jaxx set reveling in the unexpected vibrancy of Royksopp’s present sound.