Somewhere in synthpop heaven, a match was made. Norwegian duo Royksopp would party with Swedish indie diva Robyn, and beautiful music would be made.
It happened most spectacularly on Royksopp’s 2009 album, Junior, with the disco smash “The Girl and the Robot,” which between Royksopp’s hooky synths and Robyn’s pleading voice captured a perfect crystalized moment in dancefloor history. Nominally, the song is about a woman in love with someone who may not return her affections, or at least is not as warm as she would like. The video fetishes technology and strobe lights.
And introducing the song gave Robyn a perfect opportunity to declare her raison d’etre before its performance by a happily reunited Robyn and Royksopp Thursday night at Wolf Trap.
“Love is a lot of work. Love is hard,” she said.
She certainly reflected that in her best material in her own mini-set, which featured well-loved songs from her 2010 opus Body Talk. She hit the songs the audience wanted to hear, including “Indestructible,” a heartbreaking song about loving despite your fears; “Call Your Girlfriend,” a heartbreaking song telling someone to leave his lover for her; and “Dancing on My Own,” a heartbreaking song about not getting who you want.
Of course, Robyn sang and strutted in her own signature way, wearing an impossibly complicated (and one might say not so flattering) outfit of a bushy coat, boxer shorts and impractical floppy boots most often seen on comic book characters.
Her outfit changed significantly when she took the stage for a second set. You see, Robyn is touring with Royksopp on the occasion of this year’s extended collaboration between the two acts, the EP “Do It Again,” which lyrically both hails the literal reunion of the two as well as metaphorically giving in to an inescapable sexual relationship.
The last set of the evening brought the two Scandinavian pop acts together. (Royksopp started off after opener Zahla; Robyn performed her own set; and Robyn and Royksopp combined closed the show.) For this part of the show, Robyn embraced her reputation as indie disco queen, wearing yet more complicated shoes but a more flattering shimmery top over sports bra ensemble.
If the second outfit was more “sexy,” it suited the material, which verges chirpily on “happily vulgar”—not that there’s anything wrong with that. The synthmeisters of Royksopp generally play upbeat, winning melodies, sometimes with vocal accompaniment; often without. The combined intent with “Do It Again” was clearly dirty disco–dancefloor thumpers all about sex and candy.
They opened the combined set with “Sayit,” a long, continually thumpy number that opens the “Do It Again” EP. Robyn’s performance during this song mostly consists of lying on an elevated platform with her legs spread and kicking in a style to suggest… ok outright mimic… crazy sex. Royksopp and the accompanying six piece band (including the saxophonist!) are dressed in disco face masks, making them seem glittery yet ominous, and perhaps anonymous? as they perform in an elegantly arrayed chorus around her.
Soon, everyone shines in “The Girl and the Robot,” as referenced above. The live performance of that song contains a highlight lost in the recorded and video renditions of the song–the lyrical response by the male “robot character.” For this part, Royksopp’s Svein Berge dons a robot helmet and sings accusingly back at the unfulfilled Robyn, “you don’t know what it’s all about!” It’s a pleasing piece of theater featuring a rare vocal contribution from one of the Royksopp gents.
The five-song set closes with the anthemic “Do It Again,” performed triumphantly (if again a bit literally as Robyn has more opportunities to writhe on her back while wearing slightly less clothing).
Generally, it was wonderfully lovely if smutty experience, given that Robyn and Royksopp simply complement each other so well. Their individual talents and outlooks mesh well together, and they share a common goal of making dancefloor love (of both the high- and low-minded varieties).
At press time, one post-DC US tour date remains: Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Morrison, Colo., on 8/27 (in addition to a performance in Toronto tonight). It’s bound (and tied) to be a good time, and here’s to hoping that Robyn and Royksopp do it yet again sometime soon.