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Profound Mysteries III Hannah Pezzack , November 21st, 2022 09:22

The Norwegian duo excel when sticking to what they know best, finds Hannaz Pezzack

The third instalment of a series of albums that have been steadily released over 2022, Profound Mysteries III makes for a climactic finisher. The ambitious project has included thirty new tracks, each accompanied by a short film and animated visualisations. Back in 2014, the pair formally said “goodbye to the traditional album format,” cryptically promising a reinvention of how music is presented and consumed. A glitzy cinematic-cum-audiophile’s-wet-dream, Profound Mysteries certainly delivers, with songs featuring Alison Goldfrapp, Susanne Sundfør and many more to boot. But despite the extravagant presentation, it’s when the band take a more reined-in approach, slowing tempos and returning to the stripped-back, haunting melodies that defined their inaugural output, that the LP really comes into its own. 

‘So Ambiguous’ launches off, the violin-laden bridge reminiscent of Portishead and recalling Röyksopp’s 2001 debut album, Melody A.M., a record marked by its innovative take on downbeat electronica. ‘Like an Old Dog’ is another standout – the repeated track name is accompanied by a heartbeat drum machine beat and bassline with waves of synthesised strings rising up into evermore heavenly crescendos. Abrasive acid-inflected textures meld with angelic vocals on ‘The Night’ followed up by the Daft Punk-esque ‘Speed King’ and Jamie Irrepressible doing his best Anhoni impression on ‘The Next Day’. Things get a bit tropical-house-meets-RnB with ‘Just Wanted to Know’, the song’s stilted funk bass and gooey sweet lyrics as vapid as shopping centre pop. 

There are two wolves inside Röyksopp. When the going is good with the Norwegian electro-pop outfit, there are visionary collaborations with the likes of Björk, jazzy trip hop magic that breathes new life into the well-worn genres, not to mention remixes – potent dance-floor elixirs that can make even a cowbell enticing. On the flip side, the group also makes electronica so driven by nostalgia and mimicry that it operates a pale shadow of what it’s attempting to re-create. This was certainly the case for Profound Mysteries II. Released in April of this year, the second instalment of the PM project had the grandiose aim of recreating their greatest influences – Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Italo disco and 1990s UK rave. The lacklustre result features ten tracks that are soulless shadows of the songs and musicians they set out to replicate. By contrast, Profound Mysteries III is decidedly weirder and slower, allowing the band to explore the leftfield theatrics and grittiness intrinsic to the best side of their sound. Yet there are plenty of moments where bombastic pomp overshadows this restraint. ‘Stay Awhile’ is an onslaught of EDM drops, the marching beat and auto-tune echo wrenching away any subtly from the Moog synthesiser chords. All in all, a mixed bag.