Melody A.M. (Astralwerks ’02) Rating: A-
The Norweigan duo of Svein Berge and Torbjörn Brundtland concocted this often-stunning debut album, which garnered comparisons with Air and other exponents of electronic chill-out music such as Zero 7. “So Easy” immediately sets the pace with moody chants and ambient synths, yet the song is also beat driven and danceable. Both soothing and strangely haunting, the song seamlessly segues into “Eple,” on which the band’s futuristic bent is apparent, with a neat keyboard-led groove and all sorts of atmospheric embellishments going on in the background. Things slow down on “Sparks,” a sexy Portishead-y late night showcase for the seductive vocals of Bel Canto's Anneli Marian Drecker, while “In Space” (another instrumental, as are most of the tracks on the album) proffers dreamy background music, though you can still appreciate the song’s cool beats. I’m pretty sure the up tempo electronic dance groove of “Poor Leno” (featuring the falsetto vocals of Kings Of Convenience's Erlend Oye) was in a car commercial, which is fitting given the cinematic allure of the band’s music, and “Higher Place” is another effective vocal track with ambient electronics that Moby would be more than proud to call his own. “Röyksopp's Night Out” is yet another example of the duo’s ability to coax really cool electronic/keyboard noises along with trance inducing grooves and inventive programmed beats, while “Remind Me” is an especially pretty wimp pop gem. This song shows that Röyksopp can go beyond beguiling and somewhat repetitive late night mood music, but “She’s So,” a slow, seductive instrumental that’s perfect for falling asleep to, shows that that’s what these guys do best. So who am I to complain? Really, aside from the very ambient, barely there finale (“40 Years Back/Come”), which ends the album with an unimpressive whimper, most of this cohesive album is consistently appealing and surprisingly far ranging (ambient, electronica, trip hop, dance, soul, and dreamy pop all being apt descriptions/labels at various times) given the narrow terrain within which they tread. One of the best debut albums of the new millennium, Melody A.M. is an excellent album of its type that will likely be very tough for Röyksopp to top.

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