Wall Of Sound - 2004  - 54 minutes

Attention all ad-directors and dinner-party hosts. Easy listening electronic duo Royksopp's second album is bound to follow their first by soundtracking both car commercials and nocturnal nibbling.

Their first release was a little uneven, but in 'Eple', 'Poor Leno' and 'Royksopp's Night Out' it had enough distinctive moments to make it a leading light in a genre that is often bland and inspiring. In fact loungetronica (or whatever ridiculous name is currently doing the rounds) is in serious danger of becoming the smooth jazz of the 21st Century. At this rate, it might start popping up on those always embarrassing 'Footballer's favourite bands' list.

Royksopp's options for the follow-up were to go for more of the same, or to push the boundaries even further. Sadly they have opted for conservatism. Songs like 'Alpha Male' and 'Only This Moment' are so predictable as to verge on the embarrassing. Even the better efforts such as 'Sombre Detune' and 'Triumphant' might press the right buttons but they don't lift-off into the outer stratosphere - which should be Royksopp's natural habitat.

There's plenty of the genre's identifying features - moody synths, whispery vocals and urgent beats; but there's little magic. The guest vocals are uninspired and the lyrics have no impact.

Eple epitomised what happens when a pop sensibility meets an unhinged ear for electronics. One musician acquaintance raved that it broke every rule of composition and still worked. Sadly, 'The Understanding' dutifully adhers to the rulebook, and Royksopp are now less interesting and more generic.

There are some fine moments and there is no doubting the production talents of Svein Berge and Torbjein Brundtland, the Norwegian pair behind Royksopp. But overall 'The Understanding' is depressingly disappointing. A bit more risk-taking could have taken Royksopp to the next level. Instead, they are treading water.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Triumphant - Only This Moment - 49 Percent - Sombre Detune - Follow My Ruin - Beautiful Day Without You - What Else Is There? - Circuit Breaker - Alpha Male - Someone Like Me - Dead To The World - Tristesse Globale