Monday, June 16th, 2014

Röyksopp & Robyn – Sayit

Today’s Swedish Monday includes two Norwegians (not pictured)…


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[6.38]

Anthony Easton: What if Sartre’s No Exit was played by Speak & Spells; what if Cher’s “Believe” was retrofitted to 2001; what if Robyn’s rhetorical question about fembots having feelings too was answered by the fembot in a shower of broken sparks and failed communication? I worry about these things, and so does this track.
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: Speak & Spells GONE WILD! Which, yeah, is boring cliche by now, and this is from someone who owns and listens to the Dictionaraoke versions of “I Feel Love” and “Fuck and Run.” Tim Finney just wrote that the enemy of relating to music is seeing through it, and “Sayit” is unfortunately highly see-throughable: beats for darkened retail floors, Robyn saying nothing with a Body Talk bratpout, and the closest thing to a rope truss you can buy at H&M. But — and this is my stance on that “repurposing art” debate, as well as the closest thing to an Overarching Critical Statement I’ll venture — there’s the art and storytelling that arises from stuff artists actually do and mean, and the art and storytelling that’s created when associations and imagination and the piece’s own mechanics get in the way. (This is why flash fiction is so evocative, or why entire musical macrotrends arose from how cassette tapes work, or why Notch’s “Drowning in Problems” is secretly about a bullying hellscape where you lose each of your friends after hanging out with them once.) So let’s take this in just its own context. Something in Robyn’s life has driven her to meticulously teach a robot to talk dirty, a “Deeper Understanding” situation perhaps, the people there grown colder. The track flattens out; this is a centerpiece. She parcels out every word she longs to hear, clutch and breath and thrust in her voice, but he doesn’t quite sayit, because it’s not the same if you have to tell him what to say and oh yeah also he’s a synthesized voice. His elaborations are the stuff of default English libraries turned caveman talk: “I want you, woman.” She acquiesces: a monotone and resigned and very un-Robyn “I want you too” — she might not even be Robyn. She vanishes; he’s enlivened, cycles free for futuresex/fuckmechanic fritzing. This is undeniably more compelling. It’s also reading in a lot. But is that so bad?
[8]

Will Adams: The stunning corporeality of Do It Again reaches its peak on “Sayit.” Röyksopp constructs an undulating landscape of burbling synth loops and a 4/4 pulse that resonates right in your chest. Meanwhile, Robyn, known better as emotive and dramatic, is plain menacing here, entering sporadically to demonstrate pedagogy of the sexual process: “Say it. I. Want. You,” she orders a Speak & Spell, teaching it how to emote so she can eventually own it. The back-and-forth continues as the machine grows more and more confident, to the point that it takes over the track and Robyn. “Pleasure machine! Fuck mechanic!” the Speak & Spell shouts, reveling in his newfound prowess. By the end of the song, the power dynamic has shifted drastically. Robyn is no longer in control, and with a harsh “Quiet!” to both Robyn and the music, the machine — the man — asserts his dominance. “Sayit” is daring not only for its intense musical backdrop, but for the way it exposes gender politics in such a striking and candid way.
[10]

Jonathan Bradley: Flirting with robots: even less interesting to hear than to do.
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Brad Shoup: Trying to seduce a robot sounds exhausting. Röyksopp’s playful sequencing goes sideways on this one; it doesn’t really get funky until Robyn’s tête-à-tête with our mechanical man. I’m sure she had fun recording her six words, but I dunno if she was really served by the back end of this deal.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Techno that meanders around for a while and never gets anywhere, leaving Robyn with nothing to do. The Speak & Spell voice on the track conveys more emotion than she does.
[5]

Scott Mildenhall: Not identifiably Röyksopp and not identifiably Robyn either, robotics or otherwise. It’s possibly more anonymous than either have ever sounded, just meandering for an unjustified six and a half minutes. It’s the random remix Soundcloud decides to start playing automatically after the original you actually wanted to hear, and it turns out that yes, a minute is enough.
[5]

Alfred Soto: I’ve written that this project enjoins two discrete talents to piddling ends: a singer who needs logorrhea to make her hysteria signify. The thick sequencer blocks signify okay on their own, and a weaker presence would do well to peek from behind them. Robyn isn’t one of those.
[5]

Reader average: [7] (2 votes)

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