With their warm, inviting take on downbeat, Norwegian duo Röyksopp survived the electronica boom of the early 2000s to become one of the most enduring electronic acts of their time. On early tracks like “Eple” and “Poor Leno” and their 2001 breakthrough debut Melody A.M., they blended house, R&B, and the atmospheres of IDM into more traditional downbeat sounds, and their use of multiple lead vocalists (including Anneli Drecker and Erlend Øye) further added to their versatility. A major success in their homeland, where their first four albums topped the charts, Röyksopp were also an international success, hitting a mainstream peak in the late 2000s with 2009′s guest-packed Junior and its introspective instrumental counterpart, 2010′s Senior. Though they shied away from album-based releases after 2014′s majestically melancholy farewell full-length The Inevitable End, Röyksopp continued to issue music in the form of singles, mixes, and collections such as 2021′s Lost Tapes.
The pair — Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge — both grew up in Tromsø and met through a mutual friend when they were in their early teens. Their shared love of electronic music led them to begin began recording in the early ’90s. Local-made-good Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere) provided tutelage, and during this time, Berge and Brundtland formed the group Aedena Cycle with two other musicians. The band’s 1994 EP Traveler’s Dreams appeared on the R&S sublabel Apollo, and Jenssen almost convinced them to sign a full deal with the label. However, Aedena Cycle disbanded, and after a few years apart, Brundtland and Berge met up again in Bergen and formed Röyksopp in 1998. Following a pair of singles for the local label Tellé (1999′s “So Easy” and 2001′s “Eple”), the group signed to Wall of Sound. The British big beat label reissued “Eple,” which along with another track, “Poor Leno,” earned slots on over a dozen chillout compilations that year and the next.
Appearing in September 2001, Röyksopp’s debut album Melody A.M. expanded on their smooth mix of trip-hop, disco, and electronic pop and featured vocal cameos by Erlend Øye and Bel Canto’s Anneli Drecker. The album was a huge success in Norway, where it topped the albums chart, was certified platinum, won a Spellemannprisen for Best Electronic Album, and was eventually named the best Norwegian album of the 2000s by the country’s largest newspaper. Melody A.M. was also an international hit: it went platinum in the Netherlands and the U.K., where it spawned several Top 40 hits. In the U.S., it reached number 18 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart, and the single “Remind Me” was used in a popular Geico car insurance commercial. In 2002, the video for “Remind Me” won a Spellemannprisen as well as an MTV Europe Music Award, and Röyksopp were nominated for a Brit Award for Best International Group the following year.
Berge and Brundtland spent the next few years performing live and remixing artists including Beck and Annie. They returned with July 2005′s The Understanding, which featured more traditionally structured songs than their earlier work, as well as vocals by Chelonis R. Jones, Kate Havnevik, and the Knife’s Karin Dreijer. Dreijer appeared on the single “What Else Is There,” a Top Five hit in Norway and a Top 40 hit in the U.K. The Understanding expanded on Melody A.M.’s success, once again topping the chart in Norway and debuting at number 13 in the U.K., where it was certified gold. In the States, the album reached number two on Billboard’s Top Electronic albums chart. Röyksopp capped off this success by winning a Spellemannprisen for Best Pop Group. The live EP Röyksopp's Night Out — which featured a cover of Queens of the Stone Age’s “Go with the Flow” — appeared a year later, and in 2007, the duo released their volume of the Back to Mine series. In addition, Berge was a board member for the Grieg year, a celebration of composer Edvard Grieg on the centennial of his death. In 2008, Röyksopp commemorated their own tenth anniversary by releasing the song “Happy Birthday” on their website.
Starting in 2009, the duo embarked on an ambitious dual album project. First up was March’s Junior, an upbeat set that reunited them with Dreijer and Drecker and also counted Robyn and Lykke Li among its guest vocalists. Balancing the approaches of Röyksopp ’s two previous albums, Junior became their third consecutive number one album in Norway, reached number 21 in the U.K., and became the duo’s first album to enter the Billboard 200 Albums chart in the U.S. (it also appeared on the Top Electronic Albums and Top Heatseekers charts). Additionally, the Jean Elan remix of the Robyn-featuring single “The Girl and the Robot” was nominated for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical at the 52nd Grammy Awards. Junior was followed, appropriately, by September 2010′s Senior, a relatively sedate album of instrumentals. It became Röyksopp’s fourth consecutive number one album in their homeland, reached number 33 on the U.K. charts, and peaked at 18 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the U.S. Six of the album’s songs appeared in the short film Röyksopp’s Adventures in Barbieland.
In June 2013, Brundtland and Berge resurfaced with their volume of LateNightTales, which featured a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Ice Machine” with Susanne Sundfør on vocals. That December, they reunited with Sundfør on “Running to the Sea,” a single that included the B-side “Something in My Heart,” a collaboration with the Irrepressibles’ Jamie McDermott. The following May, they teamed up with Robyn on the Do It Again EP to promote their joint tour. That November, Röyksopp released their final album. Setting a fittingly dark yet energetic mood, The Inevitable End included more collaborations with Sundfør, McDermott, and Robyn. Their first and only full-length to reach number two in Norway, the album peaked at 38 in the U.K. and reached 103 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart in the U.S., their highest position on that chart.
Though Röyksopp were finished with albums, they continued to work on varied projects. These included the music for Kafta feat. Royksopp, a 2015 comedic theatrical production based on the work of Franz Kafka, and a series of jingles for the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK’s TV news division. In 2016, Röyksopp contributed to the Star Wars Headspace compilation with the track “Bounty Hunters” and also issued another Sundfør collaboration, “Never Ever.” Three years later, Röyksopp kicked off their Lost Tapes series, releasing rarities and previously unreleased tracks from the vault each month of the year. In addition to the first offering, “Rising Urge,” they also unveiled another Sundfør track, “In the End,” which also featured Man Without Country. Also in 2019, the duo collaborated with Lars Vaular on the single “To minutter.” The Lost Tapes series continued until January 2021; that September, they issued Lost Tapes, a physical release of the first ten tracks in the series. ~ Heather Phares & John Bush