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When electronic music superstars Röyksopp released ‘The Inevitable End’ in 2014, they pledged that it would be their final full-length record, thus completing their six album cycle. They also pledged they would return with new music in other forms as and when time was right. Their new single, the standalone ‘Never Ever’, is them coming good on that promise with an unabashedly club-ready track influenced by late-period disco and ‘80s electronic pop. In Röyksopp terms it’s closest, probably, to ‘The Girl And The Robot’ from 2009’s ‘Junior’ or ‘Do It Again’ from the 2014 EP of the same name, but really, they’ve not done anything quite like this before.
There’s a long history of catchy, immediate tunes being written quickly – as this one was in just a few hours earlier this year. “If you’ve spent little time on creating something, there seems to be some universal law suggesting that the end-product will be equally easy to take in,” says Svein. “People have written books about this phenomena – tracks made without effort becoming classics, although most of the time, it’s quite the opposite; sounding effortless takes a lot of effort.” he adds. “This song,” says Torbjørn, ”and the melody, was written in a few minutes and a few hours for the lyrics and structure. We find, that when we’re in the zone, it’s actually beneficial just to leave things as they were when they flowed out of our collective mind.” The video for the track is set in “a disco-esque alternative universe”. “We have, in the past, tended to go for a bit of a sombre sentiment in our videos, pristine imagery with a hint of darkness,” says Svein. “But we wanted to turn that around this time, and make something raw, shabby and messy yet light-hearted. At the core of the video, lies a «reaction» to the current paradigme of selfies & social media, where a flattering facade, overshadowing substance, seems to be not only the accepted norm, but something to strive for.
There are way too many artists that fuel this notion that one has to be both rich, delinquent, successful & sexy – all at the same time. We thought it refreshing to counter all that and therefore we went off on a different tangent for this video. It’s not completely unflattering, but it’s quite unflattering.” ‘Never Ever’ sees the duo team up with Norwegian vocalist Susanne Sundfør, who is becoming a frequent collaborator: she appears on ‘The Inevitable End’ tracks ‘Running To The Sea’ and ‘Save Me’, as well as performing on Röyksopp’s cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Ice Machine’ for the duo’s ‘Late Night Tales’ compilation album. “We seem to be able to make her laugh, which fuels our egos,” says Svein. ”And her voice and personality is a good match for Röyksopp.” If the aim for the duo was lead Sundfør into a new artistic realm, the same applies to Röyksopp as a unit. Releasing themselves from the albums cycle has freed the duo up to explore new ideas and opportunities, such as their track for Rick Rubin’s Star Wars ‘’ album, which challenged musicians including Flying Lotus to make songs using sounds from the Star Wars universe. The latest fruit is ‘Never Ever’. The next? Who knows. “The whole idea of us going away from the whole album concept was that we do have many musical expressions that we want to do,” says Torbjørn. “One of them might be a club track, but we don’t necessarily want to do an album of it. It’s that way with ‘Never Ever’ – we love it, but we don’t need 12 tracks like it.” Withdrawing from the album cycle hasn’t led to procrastination. In fact, they say they’re “more focused than ever”. The pair take months out to write together in seclusion, during which time they keep strange hours, grow beards and transcend to whatever plane they’re taken. “We tend to work in phases where we go a bit more Bohemian in the writing period, where we just disappear, Torbjørn and myself, and have strange, long hours just drifting… The world outside doesn’t really exist for us and vice versa,” says Svein. “Then we return to our more normal lives and revisit what we created in our alternated state and work out what needs to be tweaked and produced.”
With the freedom to release music as the songs themselves demand, future projects will come in many forms, whether compilations, EPs, or something else entirely. One idea they’re working on is for a series of tracks that explores a counterpoint to the super-clean sound of modern electronic music. “I think we would like to further our exploration into the analogue world, like the early years of electronic music, where synths and drum machines would be used in combination with more traditional acoustic and analogue instruments. Like we’ve done in that past, but take it even further,” says Svein. “We have a flair for symphonic prog rock and early synth stuff – and we’ve always had our base in the analogue outboard domain. So that’s a place we want to revisit and explore even deeper.“ “And,“ Torbjørn adds, “we’d want to make more than one track. We need to make something that sounds dirty in the right way. We like clean too, but there’s too much clean-sounding electronic music being released right now.” The free reign they’ve afforded themselves is a return, says Svein, to the way they worked in the group’s early days. “When we started making music as kids there wasn’t that much thought behind it, in terms of conceptual big ideas,” he says. ”But with ‘Melody AM’ and all albums after, the «conceptual whole» became an integral part of the Röyksopp-way. And although ‘Never Ever’ is a stand-alone track and not part of the Röyksopp album-cycle that started with ‘Melody AM’ and ended with ‘The Inevitable End’, the track has it’s own cosmos and it’s own place.”
Last year, 2016, marks the 15th anniversary of their huge classic debut album ‘Melody AM’, which hit Number 9 in the UK chart and Number 1 in Norway and cemented their names as one of electronic music’s leading lights. Since then they have gained worldwide acclaim and success with two Grammy nominations, a Brit nomination, seven Spellemannprisen Awards and they continue to wow audiences with their visually compelling headline DJ and live sets. But the duo aren’t planning on looking back just yet. “There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, but I’m not the one to initiate it,” says Svein. Instead, the rest of 2016, they say, will probably be filled with the occasional show, the occasional DJ set, a release, perhaps, and lots of writing. But really, you’ll just have to watch this space – this is the inevitable new beginning.