opinion byJEAN-LUC MARSH
Any counterargument at this point is moot: the internet age is in full swing. The World Wide Web has made the ascendance of musical talent from relative nothingness commonplace. Making an entrance into the collective consciousness of the music world has never been so easy. Less simple however, are the protocols that should be followed when trying to exit from this platform. Receding back into the zeroes and ones, and detaching from the amassed fame, is a less apparent process. This uncharted nature makes it prime territory for exploration, and different methods have met with varying levels of success. On one hand, there is the end that everyone sees coming (Death Grips), versus the sudden announcement with little prior warning (The Knife). Röyksopp have chosen a middle path through these unknown waters, electing to let the world know with about a month’s notice, that their latest record, The Inevitable End, would be their last.
The full repercussions of that announcement probably will not become evident until after the farewell period has passed, but as of now, it seems to be yielding mixed results. The courteous nature of the announcement removes the hype that would surround other similar “final” albums (the forthcoming the powers that b) or the nostalgia that follows an album that only becomes final after the fact (Shaking the Habitual).
In that sense, The Inevitable End is unique in that its express purpose is to serve as a closing chapter (at least regarding Röyskopp’s use of the LP format), and that its sounds tailor-made to that end. In fact, a sort of slow-burning electro dominates much of the album, leaving space for reflection and rumination: in short, the soundtrack to a peroration.
Of course, there does come a point when this entire aesthetic of finality begins to weigh on the work as a whole. Several of the songs sound homogenous at first blush even when punctuated by more strident company. It does not help that guests reappear several times throughout (notably Jamie McDermott of the Irrepressibles, who is present on a whopping four tracks), and that the subdued vocals of many a track tend to become indistinguishable. However, almost every song, when taken individually, is a gem, sprawling and adroitly executed. Yet, only a few stand out when played in succession. The first of two Robyn collaborations (a remix on the already solid “Monument” from Do It Again), as well as “I Had This Thing,” are instant standouts. However, it is fellow Norwegian, Susanne Sundfør, who gets the most mileage out of her two cameos on the album (“Save Me” and “Running To The Sea”), each exquisitely negotiated vocally.
The slower moments shine in their own respect, though. “Sordid Affair” is unfairly forced to follow “Monument,” making it seem comparatively lackluster, but its uncluttered nature and quick pace make it reminiscent of Daft Punk. “Here She Comes Again” is similar in the way that it grows with each play, becoming increasingly transfixing, drawing the listener in with its spiral soundscape and employing Jamie McDermott’s low-pitched vocals to great, yet subtle, effect. The final dyad of “Coup De Grace” and “Thank You,” grow to become fitting capstones for the album. The former injects some drama by way of ethereal choruses seemingly drawn from the halls of some great cathedral and outfitted with the vaguely threatening drone of a synthesizer, while the latter takes a bow with an easy two-step of a rhythm and a minimalistic piano melody that remains in the memory long after the music fades.
So ultimately, The Inevitable End succeeds in that it does what Röyksopp intended for it to do: say goodbye smoothly by way of a fully formed aesthetic. This cohesion becomes its downfall at points, though. The Inevitable End closes Röyksopp’s career with neither a bang nor a whimper. Although, one should hope, given the ambiguous nature of Röyksopp’s farewell announcement and the dexterity on display here, it might not have to be the definitive end.