Norwegian electronic group Röyksopp and Swedish pop queen Robyn have a recent history of successful collaborations, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise when the musicians announced a mini-album appropriately titled Do It Again. What is surprising, however, is the distinct duality of this release. The tracklist swerves from somber to sassy with only one exception, resulting in a varied but uneven listen.
“Monument” kicks things off in tenuous fashion, sounding like it was recorded in a slowly spinning turbine. Röyksopp blend airy vocal loops with steady drum beats and minimalist bass lines while Robyn sings of casting her body and leaving the world with love after she’s gone. It’s certainly an unexpected way to kick off the album and, aside from its excessive length, the song is oddly entrancing. Hand drums and saxophone solos compliment the calm, lending just one of several unexpected instrumental flourishes to the record.
Second single “Sayit” cranks the energy by a considerable margin, as if Röyksopp and Robyn knew listeners would tire after the pensive “Monument”. The artists lay down a deep, mechanical foundation befitting the “I…want…you…” chants spoken in tones both human and artificial. Unfortunately, all the glitchy synthesizers and raunchy lyrics fall flat over an overindulgent six minutes. It’s edgy but aimless.
“Do It Again” is the lead-off single and title track from this release, and with good reason. For one, it’s immediately catchy like most of the tunes from Robyn’s stellar Body Talk series. Secondly, the song is exactly what one would expect from another Röyksopp and Robyn collaboration. While the production is mostly by-the-numbers EDM, there are a few welcome interjections of synth strings to accent all the minor chords. As anyone who’s drunkenly sang along to “Dancing on My Own” can attest, Robyn has a knack for mixing sexy pop hooks with haunting inner turmoil. Her bittersweet side shines on a downtrodden bridge section that twists the phrase “do it again” from naughty come-on to cautious regret:
“We should not be friends
We’ll just do it again
If you stay around,
We’ll just do it again”
“Every Little Thing” is the aforementioned exception to Do It Again’s bipolar tendencies, and it’s a real highlight. Röyksopp’s mid-tempo, head-nodding arrangement complements Robyn’s emotionally charged vocal with style and class that’s both cool and dramatic. The track gradually builds toward a deceptively simple refrain: “Baby…why you falter…when you know I’m waiting, when you know I’m waiting here?” Sure enough, “Every Little Thing” carries the same desperate longing and lyrical themes of Röyksopp and Robyn’s first collaboration, 2009’s incredible “The Girl and the Robot”. Maybe they’re on to something with the whole “underappreciated lover” theme.
Do It Again ends just as solemnly as it began, with the nine-minute instrumental “Inside the Idle Hour Club”. The song sticks to a moody, downbeat trod, introducing quiet horns and flutes to accompany hesitant synth patterns before another calm bass riff creeps into the mix. Is it beautiful? Sure. Essential? Not a chance, but the track makes for some solid background listening.
It’s odd to hear such typically laser-focused musicians collaborate on and release what is essentially a grab-bag of ideas. Too often Röyksopp and Robyn stick to tried-and-true patterns without offering synthesis or rejection of the other’s sound. Do It Again is agreeable, pleasing, and full-bodied, but it’s also inconsequential. The group is about to embark on a world tour and will surely continue to collaborate if all goes well. Perhaps they’ll find a greater source of inspiration than each other.
Rating: 3 stars