Photographer: Stian Andersen.
Norwegian electro-pop wizards Röyksopp say goodbye to the album format with The Inevitable End, their fifth and purportedly final LP. In the four years since 2010's downbeat, mostly instrumental Senior, producers Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland have continued to shift their focus toward singles and collaborations, working with Swedish pop star Robyn on a 2013 mini-album, offering up a pair of new tracks on their Late Night Tales compilation, and basically doing whatever their whimsy dictates. Their alignment with prominent European vocalists has been a recurring theme since their 2002 Erlend Oye (Kings of Convenience)-assisted breakthrough "Poor Leno," with each consecutive album (excepting Senior) boasting more and more cameos as they transitioned from chillout pioneers to pop songsmiths. In that respect, The Inevitable End plays like a revue of sorts with a vocal-heavy rotation of guests including Robyn, Susanne Sundfor, Jamie McDermott (the Irrepressibles), and Ryan James (Man Without Country). The inclusion of the 2013 Sundfor-fronted single "Running to the Sea" and a reworking of their Robyn collaboration "Monument" almost make it seem like they've already moved past the inevitable end and become the singles-only act they've alluded to, but there is a tangible enough thread connecting each of the tracks to make this curtain call a generally cohesive set. Among the vocal-fronted fare, the new version of "Monument" is truly a highlight, featuring Röyksopp's trademark nasty bass-synth squelch and Robyn's powerful (and thematically appropriate) declaration of "This will be my monument, this will be a beacon when I'm gone." Likewise, the dreamy McDermott-led "You Know I Have to Go" also expresses a sort of elegant finality with a melody and vibe that recalls their early classic "Remind Me." McDermott's voice appears three more times on the album, sweetening each cut with his barrel-aged croon and acting as a sort of foil against the more aggressive tones of the Robyn-led songs. Bookending the album are three unassisted tracks that display the compositional flair, bite, wit, and dramatics that have made this duo so special over the past decade. Album-opener and lead single "Skulls" is possibly one of the darkest, most dangerous tracks Berge and Brundtland have ever produced, leaping out of the speakers with its low, gritty throb and menacing vocoder harmonies. On the back end, they close out their final act with the haunted Wendy Carlos-esque, "Moonlight Sonata" nod "Coup de Grace," which sets up the wistfully downbeat farewell track "Thank You," again utilizing their familiar vocoder harmonies to express words of gratitude, friendship, and loyalty. It's a strong finale in the duo's signature style and whether or not this truly is the end or merely the end of their album era, The Inevitable End sits among the best in Röyksopp's catalog. ~ Timothy Monger