Röyksopp, University, Newcastle

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The Independent Culture

Röyksopp, on the other hand, appear on the furious winds of a far more bombastic storm of clattering synth drums, cascading gothic strings and guitars feeding back like Hendrix on heat. Not the kind of intro you might expect from a band who are synonymous with the naïvety of synth-pop melody and the brittle beats of contemporary easy-electro. In the three years since the band's nostalgia-drenched debut album, Melody A.M., it would seem that the duo have learned to rawk like an Eighties stadium act.

So, before even the first note of opening number "Röyskopp's Night Out" is struck, the Norwegians clearly promote a dichotomy. While visually their red shirts, skinny black ties and greased-back hair (in homage to Kraftwerk) locate the band squarely at the bleeping heart of electronica, musically they have more in common with Simple Minds. Not that either of Röyskopp's leading men (or the supporting cast of female singer and guitarist) sways around the stage like grotesque parodies of Jim Kerr, but that their performance shares something in common with the Scottish rocker's pomposity.

"Alpha Male" is a case in point. Opening with an elegiac synth motif worthy of New Gold Dream (Simple Minds' breakthrough album), the song evolves through a series of epic snapshots taking in all things prog rock, from Pink Floyd to Faithless, before climaxing with a display of synthesiser virtuosity worthy of Rick Wakeman. At points like this, silk capes would have been more fitting attire.

However, all is not as bad as it at first seems. Beneath the pompous musical mannerisms lie Röyskopp's insistent wispy melodies and trademark keyboard arpeggios, which draw on both the smug frailty of the French band Air and the naïve techno-pop styling of early Depeche Mode.

At best, as on the joyous "Eple" with its addictive contorted ringtone melody, "Remind Me" with its parodied Parisian ambience, and the Björk-like eccentricity of "What Else Is There?", Röyksopp display a sublime beauty that easily outreaches any clumsy pomp delivery. "Only this Moment", too, finds the duo trading subtle layers and textural vocal interplay to stunning effect, while "Poor Leno" walks the fine line between techno-funk and full on Euro-pop with a heavy (live) emphasis on crashing synth drums. On the downside, though, "Sparks" and "Circuit Breaker" show signs of a band with an eye on their stadium gigs.

This fact is amply underlined by "Istanbul Forever", a track that lifts the emotionally wretched "Poor Leno" melody and turns it into an overblown keyboard hook with all the self importance of an Elgar concerto.

More Simple Minds than Kraftwerk, then, but beneath the functional grey pomposity of Röyksopp's live exterior, a heart of shimmering crystal still beats.

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