Röyksopp’s latest venture plays like the soundtrack to a mind fuck.
With layers of electronics meant to incite a dream like state, Senior is certainly not the Röyksopp of 2009. The fourth album from Iceland dance heroes is one of opposites. While it’s withdrawn and dark, if not sinister at times, do not be discouraged. Röyksopp’s aim with Senior is for an experience outside the dance floor.
Senior is the completion of the duo of concept albums that started with last year’s Junior. The concept is simple, as Röyksopp offers its views on getting older and dealing with demons at the step of death’s door.
Juxtaposed with the youthful Junior, Senior takes on a mature attitude, one that’s reflective and alluring, just as Röyksopp intended.
The tracks are long, well thought out and leave everything up to the imagination. However, venturing deeper into the duo’s musical psyche means ignoring why Röyksopp is relevant in the first place. Senior has much more down tempo to flaunt with ambient instrumentals that ditch the guest heavy club sound of Junior. That’s the point though, to create that opposing view, thus coming full circle.
Short of filler, all vocals have been left out this time as the music is reflective, not active. Even when the tempo picks up on “The Drug,” the ambient wash holds it at a general hum. The same attitude applies throughout the record, bringing in the lighter side of Kraut era synths. “Forsaken Cowboy” builds on the concept, adding an acoustic guitar and drum shuffle to the atmospheric layers, to create, as the name suggests, a western Americana feel.
Those opposing views of light and dark, life and death show themselves most effectively on “The Fear.” Over seven minutes, it digs itself out from the down tempo swirl to become the most optimistic of all the tracks with a trip-hop beat, providing the only two dance worthy minutes on the album.
It is still Röyksopp after all, and that is never strayed from no matter how twisted things get.
Senior is, as intended, a concept album through and through. With track names like “The Alcoholic,” “Coming Home” and “Senior Living,” the duo convey a message of a long life filled with memories, regrets and a sense of time moving all too quickly. The music creates a mood, as the songs are litteral interpretations of their names; “The Alcoholic” is hazy and conflicted, “Senior Living” is nostalgic and surreal and so on.
By creating an album like this, Röyksopp leave its comfort zone behind, yet nothing is alienating. That feature is what makes a concept album work in the first place. Besides, artists are certainly allowed to deviate from self-ascribed norms. However, for Röyksopp’s sake, here’s hoping the band doesn’t get too lost in its conceptual self.