Boasting one of the most absorbing earwigs of the year, Röyksopp's single "Eple" circles around a high-pitched sonic tickle that falls in and out of pitch every time it hints at solidifying into a stable hook. Pushed through with acoustic guitar and sluggish drums that seem bewildered by the figure wiggling just above them, that sound never quite congeals into the riff it implies. But it goes a long way toward signaling the wobbly ooze of Melody A.M., a highly imaginative entry into the saturated realm of downtempo chill-out music. A Norwegian duo whose remixes have become hot compilation commodities, Röyksopp strains the cyclic roll of broken-beats jazz through the warm ambient firmament of Boards Of Canada and the spacey atmospheres of Air. But even when hitting on well-worn genre exercises, the duo tweaks its formula in small ways that lead to big returns. The album-opening "So Easy" leans toward The Avalanches' woozy ripple, with pizzicato strings and a cocktail-swinging choral sample laid over a breezy funk beat. Rounded out by the throaty coo of singer Anneli Drecker, "Sparks" is a velvety heartbreaker that plays like Björk's Vespertine gone analog. A somewhat bland midsection leads the album through faceless downbeat grooves, but the standouts—the yawning filter-disco ode "Poor Leno," the Moby-like melodramatic dirge "A Higher Place," the rubbery break-fest "Röyksopp's Night Out"—teem with sharp ideas. Pitched for both late-night drowsiness and early-morning gauzy sparkle, Melody A.M. proves warmly approachable on the surface, but deep enough to bury effects worth digging out.

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