The Understanding Import
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One of the most beloved and best selling artists in the electronic genre, Royksopp returns with this highly anticipated 2nd album The Understanding. Combining lush atmospherics with swoonworthy pop, the Norwegian duo deliver a delectable follow-up to their worldwide hit Melody AM. Contains 12 total tracks. Astralwerks. 2005.
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Top Customer Reviews
Maybe it's the producer in me that appreciates just how complex these tracks are. In "Only This Moment" alone, there is more going on than 99% of pop records today COMBINED!
All I can say is, THANK GOD we got away from the loop based stuff before we all died from it. That being said, I would rank the top three laptop albums of all time (so far) as follows: 1)The Understanding, 2)Angel Milk by Telepopmusik (their first album "Genetic World" was three great tracks and a bunch of throw away stuff), and 3) Out Of The Loop by I Am the World Trade Center (a loop based album, ironically)...
Royksopp's "The Understanding" is a 8 out of 5 star album (it's docked two for Alpha Male being SUCH a waste of time, and for the last two tracks being so similar with no real beats. Just bad song placement, really).
The less said about 49%, the better. My Lord! NSync would be hard pressed to write something that insipid.
2 stars, 3 stars if you rip it into MP3s and delete 49%
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Well, The Understanding...takes some understanding. After Melody AM, you wonder "Why the heck did they go in this direction?" You may feel like they spit in your eye with this one. I guess it takes an open mind. If you're the type of person who enjoys many genres, I can't see why you wouldn't like at least half of this album. I liked "Only This Moment" the moment I heard it; the vocals work so well together and it makes me feel...I don't know...hopeful or something (corny, I know). "Circuit Breaker" is funky and I like its energy, much like "49 Percent". "49 Percent" is my tie for fave with "Only This Moment". "Alphamale" does nothing for me, personally. "What Else Is There" was hard for me to swallow at first, but then it grew on me. It has a sort of desolate, macabre feel to it for me...I can imagine being in a desert at night, full of hallucinogenes and feeling insignificant against nature when I listen to it...and the chick singing really sounds a lot like Cindy Lauper, though not as eccentric. I feel that if you're truly a lover of music, you'll at least like this CD.
I noticed reviewers saying things like "I liked this until I heard it in Electronics Boutique" or "I loved it until it went mainstream." I really hate when people say things like "I loved this until it became mainstream," or "I wish everyone else would stay away from my genre of music." Good music is good music and no one has the right to try to horde music like some stingy troll or rancid dragon hording a stolen treasure. Personally, I feel that if you can't like something simply because other people like it or "play it out" then you're just a fickle supporter at best.
That being said, The Understanding doesn't compare to Melody AM, regardless of how aware I am of the different paths the two CDs follow. You won't suffer a great loss if you don't pick it up, like you would if you ignored Melody AM...but you won't be buying the worst CD on the planet if you get it. I don't know if that helps much, but there it is.
Reviewers here in the newspapers have rated this record usually at 4/6, with the occasional 5/6. The album has a very different feel to it compared to "Melody AM", so it's clear that some old fans might be dissappointed. But it's nothing like Abba, A-ha or Erasure, like some of the reviewers here have suggested.
If you prefer your Ambient to be mega-groovy or edgy, then look elsewhere! This album starts with it's livelier tracks and then gets gradually more and more introverted. Even though some of the later tracks have beats, their mood is mostly softer than the starting tracks.
Also, some tracks, especially 49%, can be experienced as poppy in a "camp" way - but it still is defintely not Erasure! However, it's also a catchy tune, so it depends on your taste.
Although Erlend Øye does not sing on this album I'd say that Röyksopps musical kinship with bands like Kings of Convenience grows with this album - more focus on sensitivity and quiet expressiveness, except accompanied by electronic beats, not guitars. The main male vocalist sings in a soft, muted way, and sometimes uses the upper part of his tenor range (but it's not a falsetto), which I think is what some other reviewers didn't like....The sound itself is a matter of taste, but there is nothing wrong with the vocals - he does a very good job. (And 49% has a guest vocalist whose voice is even higher pitched).
Compared to Melody AM, I'd say this album relates to it's dreamier tracks like "Sparks" and "Remind me", so if you liked those you should try the new album, but if you favourite was "Eple", then don't expect to find anything like it on here. It also does not have quite the same sparkle of originality that "Melody AM" had, but it's hard to perform like that twice in a row! Röyksopp have clearly expanded their range, and developer a slightly richer sound, which is why this album deserves a thorough listen before writing a review - and can probably stand many more listens once you own it better than albums which have a more immediate appeal.
My favourite tracks are "Only this moment" - the single they have released, "Someone like me", "Sombre detune", "Beautiful Day without You" (all these are clearly related to Röysopp of old), and "Triumphant" could have been written by Moby with the prominent piano theme.
I was also lucky enough to get a bonus disc with an additional five tracks which are also definitely worth having! "Go Away" has beats and flutes like the some of the best of the Melody AM tracks - it also has vocals. "Clean sweep" has one of these edgy, outer space feels, which you can't find on the album itself. "Boys" is also darker and edgier. "Head" is definitely danceable with emphasis on the changing beats. "Looser now" has a compelling, lightly danceable "flyaway" rhythm a la Talvin Singh - I don't think there is a real tabla here but they do imitate the sound of one.
I wonder if they made the wrong decision when they edited the album: These five tracks should have been on it, and some of the most obviously camp stuff which got a place should have been left out. But I guess they wanted to prioritize reinventing themselves....
Nevertheless "The Understanding" is a thoroughly pleasant listen and is highly recommendable, but especially WITH the bonus disc!