Add to playlist: ‘Murphy’s Law’, ‘Narcissus’, ‘Incapable’
The doyenne of outsider art-pop steps into her wildest dreams.
‘This is a simulation / This is for demonstration,’ coos Róisín Murphy as her fifth solo album stretches its limbs and hypes itself up for a night on the town. True enough, Róisín Machine is an audacious, open-’til-late fantasy, at turns rough and sensual.
Echoing 2007’s seminal Overpowered, these new 10 songs cast the Moloko frontwoman as a witty yet otherworldly dance floor diva with a notable appetite for R&B.
A handful of them rival any of Róisín’s biggest belters, from the celtic acid-disco of ‘Narcissus’, to the steamy ‘Murphy’s Law’, which succinctly captures the anxiety of bumping into an ex on a night out. But her and creative partner Richard Barratt’s true achievement is sustaining a luxurious mood throughout the record.
‘Simulation’ makes magic out of a simple keyboard riff and percussion that’s padded but firm, and sets the tone for a mix of classic house and disco grooves with progressive chillwave and glo-fi elements. If that sounds overwhelming in scope, generous track lengths enable each one to reach its full potential. Nonetheless, the Deluxe houses six extended remixes, each essential.
‘Kingdom of Ends’ teases its climax for an agonising six minutes. It never comes, and although Róisín tries to warn us (‘I’ve waited so long / There’s bound to be a letdown’), there’s much replay value in the anticipation, not to mention her shape-shifting vocal.
Róisín Machine’s commitment to the slow burn pays off when the tempo does pick up. ‘We Got Together’ is an urgent call to the dance floor akin to C+C Music Factory’s infamous ‘Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)’. While it may not be as melodious as what comes before, its colossal sawtooth synths hit like a truck.
‘I feel my story is still untold / But I’ll make my own happy ending’ is a lyric that appears no less than three times across the album, functioning as a kind of mission statement. Whether or not the neurotic closer ‘Jealousy’ constitutes a happy ending is a matter of opinion, yet Róisín Machine absolutely succeeds in telling the story of an artist with little time for convention.
Róisín’s return to full-throttle dance music may feel like a homecoming, but she’ll always be an outsider.