Electro acts tend to be geeks. There’s a ton of wires and software to keep straight. And while techno acts undoubtedly keep up with technology as a job prerequisite, we doubt they’re erudite enough to keep up with medical journals. But Röyksopp might.
In the same week of 2005 that the male Norwegian duo released its cold, overly synthetic and bro-heavy dud sophomore album, The Happening, the University of Sheffield’s department of psychiatry released a study comparing the effects of female and male vocals on the brain. Lab results showed women’s voices as more complex, having greater natural “melody” and, unlike male voices, affecting the auditory section of the brain. Is it mere coincidence that this lush, stunning follow-up comes loaded with a litany of Scandinavian ingenues—Robyn, Lykke Li, Anneli Drecker and Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife—while past male collaborators such as Chelonis R. Jones and Erlend Øye sit this one out?
Okay, probably. But the science is sound. Even when Robyn coos, “I’m in love with a robot,” over dark and heavy cyberpunk throbs in “The Girl and the Robot,” it’s warm, pink, fluffy cotton candy. Li’s turn on the galloping “Miss It So Much” imbues an aching yearn with light-headed joy. Of course, the video-game glee of twinkling keyboards helps.
There’s no coming down from the giddy, helium-huffed mood of the first single and opening track, “Happy Up Here.” Even the hardest, loudest numbers, like the space juke of the Andersson-sung “Tricky Tricky,” come shot through with rainbows.
Junior is a brilliant work of alchemy, turning brittle silicon computer chips into squishable, pillowy cushions of silicone.