Kick-started by the likes of Groove Armada and Zero 7 back in the early 00s, the Late Night Tales concept seems tailor-made for Royksopp, an act who have pretty much perfected the art of downtempo electronica over the course of four studio albums. Which is why it’s a surprise that it’s taken the Norwegian duo twelve years to contribute to the critically-acclaimed compilation series.
Disappointingly, Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland’s idea of the perfect after-party mix has little in common with their own work. For rather than chilly Scandinavian electro, the dominant theme of Late Night Tales’ 32nd instalment is obscure 70s soft-rock.
So we get a random 1975 B-side from forgotten British prog-outfit Rare Bird (“Passing Through”), “guilty pleasures” from the likes of French troubadour F.R. David (“Music”) and little-known German vocalist Richard Schneider Jr. (“Hello Beach Girls”) and Prelude’s a cappella cover version of Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush.”
Other oddities include wartime clarinettist Acker Bilk’s “Stranger On The Shore,” San Francisco post-punkers Tuxedomoon’s brooding bass-led “In A Manner Of Speaking” and This Mortal Coil’s gothic rendition of Emmylou Harris’ “Till I Gain Control,” all of which prove that Royksopp’s taste is nothing if not eclectic.
But only the dreamy synth instrumentals such as Vangelis’ “Blade Runner Blues,” Swiss new age composer Anders Vollenweider’s “Hands & Clouds” and Johann Johannsson’s haunting choral effort, “Odi Et Amo,” appear to provide any insight as to who influenced Royksopp’s melancholic ambient sound.
The two new Royksopp tracks on offer, the lush vocodered dream-pop of “Daddy’s Groove” and a typically ethereal take on early Depeche Mode B-side, “Ice Machine,” bode well for their fifth LP. But while the pair have undoubtedly thought outside the box with their well-travelled retro selections, the bulk of their much-anticipated Late Night Tales entry is nowhere in the same league.