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Album Review: Röyksopp – Profound Mysteries III

2 min read
Album Review: Röyksopp - Profound Mysteries III

They say good things come in threes and Röyksopp set out to prove the point with their ambitious Profound Mysteries trilogy. In case you were sleeping, we’ve already had parts I and II (released in April and August respectively) and here we round off the journey with another hours-worth of trippy electro, accompanied by a further 10 ‘digital visualizers’ (that’s animated films to you and me). The Norwegian duo’s mammoth project came a full eight years after their last proper studio album and they’ve certainly made up for lost time. 

Has it been a bit too much Röyksopp in such a short space? Yes and no. It would have been tempting to cut out some of the filler and a made do with one killer album, but this long, rambling journey has spawned some of Messrs Berge and Brundtland’s most satisfying music. If the concept is a tad pretentious – they describe it as “an expanded creative universe” whatever that means – their glacial soundscape takes on an epic grandeur, the mood constantly shifting from light to shade. Part III follows a very similar sonic palette to its two predecessors, with most of the guest vocalists returning. Yorkshireman Jamie Irrepressible sets the course on opener So Ambiguous, a somnolent string-propelled chant that sends a creepy chill through your bones, in much the same way as Air achieved on their soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides (2000). By stark contrast, second track Me&Youphoria, sung by the not incredibly well-known Gunhild Ramsay, propels us into the realms of nu-disco with its plinky synths and fast-paced electro beat.  

This is a pattern which continues throughout Profound Mysteries III: Stay Alive (feat Susanne Sundfor) is meandering ethereal pop, followed by The Night (feat Alison Goldfrapp)…which is like being thrown into an Arctic rave sometime during the late 90s. These erratic mood swings are neatly wrapped up in what is arguably the album’s centrepiece Speed King, 10 minutes of gradually building space disco, during which the departed soul of Vangelis appears to be collaborating with Giorgio Moroder. Eventually we land on Like An Old Dog – more strings, more chanting and a bassline that cleverly shadows the chord progression of So Ambiguous, taking the set full circle. 

In 2014, Röyksopp announced the aptly-titled The Inevitable End would be their last ‘traditional’ album. From now on they would experiment with new ways of working, exploring not just different textures but a variety of multi-media formats. In other words, they would cease to be a conventional music act. The Profound Mysteries trilogy realises that ambition with hit and miss results. The question is, where do they go from here? And will they dilute their brand identity in the process?