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One of the hallmarks of a great band is the consummate ease with which that group constantly strives to adapt, to evolve, and to innovate, thereby ensuring that they never repeat themselves or do something tepid or commonplace. After the inordinate success of their debut album, the electronic shot in the arm that was Melody A.M., RÖYKSOPP could have easily rested on their laurels. Look at the riches that unfolded in the wake of that album's release in October 2001: One million copies sold worldwide; tours with Basement Jaxx and Moby, not to mention headline tours of their own; a Brit nomination for Best International Group; an MN Europe Award for Best Video; and remixes for A-list artists as disparate as The Streets, Coldplay, and Felix Da Housecat.
Thankfully, Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge belong in that group of venerated artists. That's why The Understanding, the duo's supposedly 'difficult' second album, is so special. Once more defying easy categorization - it lurches from delicate widescreen cinerama to haunting house by way of boisterous electro bug-outs - it is resolutely different from their first opus, but reassuringly the same in excellence. The same then, but even better.
And whereas their curiosity on Melody A.M. took them from the producer's studio to the live arena, here their undeniable wanderlust has seen them assume the mantle of 21st-century electronic singer-songwriters.
"We needed to do something different," explains Svein. "Something that was new to us, hence the lyrical approach."
With a title as playful as The Understanding, what does it all mean? For their part, Torbjørn and Svein aren't saying. Not for the time being, anyway.
"Yes, there is meaning," Svein says. "But we believe there's room for your own interpretation. Listen to the album and see if you can come up with your own."
Torbjørn: "It's like a classical painting like the Mona Lisa. When you tell people what they should look for, they only look at that thing."
A cop out? Not a bit. Anyway, they plan to let everyone know the real meaning of the album at a symposium a few months down the line. "We'll hold the conference in Asia," Torbjørn proffers.