Róisín Machine is both a reflective and future-facing album of pure electro-pop, dance-party dynamism.
“I feel my story’s still untold, but I’ll make my own happy ending,” Róisín Murphy begins, sexily, huskily speaking against strings on “Simulation.” It’s a striking, honest statement from an artist whose visibility has always been outsized by her influence. She takes it further: after her gasping breaths, after the echo-y, sweaty beat drops and then drops again, she declares: “These are my wildest dreams” and “All this is mine, I realise.” This is Róisín Machine after all, and the machinations are familiar in the hands of a master who has been making dance music for 25 years. Between the eponymous titles and aforementioned preface, Róisín has set up her fifth solo album as a reintroduction, and the emphatic statement couldn’t be grander. As “Simulation” randily builds, hints of the buoyant, mysterious synth line to follow in “Kingdoms of Ends” breaks through. What follows is a hedonistic, continuous mix rife with thumping bass, bold melodies, and thoughtful lyrics that attempt to reconcile a life of desires and dancing. That track propulses forward, building to nothing as she accepts “the true forms of [her] desires,” subverting relief for anxious, occasionally humorous, obscurity.
The next song, “Something More,” corrects the course, satirizing excessive, nocturnal lifestyles. Over a repetitive, sparse house beat, Róisín demands more than the billion in her bank and the ten lovers in her bed. On “Murphy’s Law,” she represents the titular phenomenon as near-daily run-ins with a past flame, dropping her voice and almost speak-singing over handclaps and boogie-ish bass. “When we talk, it gets around / There’s other people’s feelings / To think about,” she sings of her action’s consequences. On “Narcissus,” Róisín mockingly sings “be in love, be in love, be in love, be in love with me” over aggressive, heavily-accented string trills and a killer bassline — the instrumental breakdown is an incredible moment, with overpowering, whiny strings and aggressive pizzicato plucking. The drama continues with album closer, “Jealousy,” which recalls tracks from Róisín’s earlier solo work and Moloko output. Breaking into one of the funkiest grooves on the record, after she howls the title, Róisín battles with the titular emotion, first dismissing it and then finding herself enraptured by it. It all amounts to an overwhelming, extreme dance floor confessional that marries the thoughtful inventiveness of her last two minimalist, avant-garde records and her career-defining opus Overpowered. Within a discography of only pop perfection, Róisín Machine manages to respectfully look back while simultaneously pushing her sounds and thoughts far into the future, transforming the listener’s headphones and at-home speakers into a humid, underground party filled with beautiful people looking to make mistakes, even despite Róisín’s warning tales.
Published as part of Album Roundup: Oct. – Dec. 2020 | Part 5.