Röyksopp has finally unveiled more details surrounding the mysterious release of his upcoming Profound Mysteries project; a series of short films that all feature unique and mysterious collaborations with some of Europe’s premier film production companies and directors.
These videos have been slowly dripping out to the public over the past three months, and the final film, ‘The morning Sun’ which dropped last week, completes the unsettling and pointedly artistic set.
The common theme throughout the series is hard to put your finger on, due to the fact that each and every director was given complete artistic control over the works.
Röyksopp & Friends: Profound Mysteries Analysis
(Nothing But) Ashes…’ by Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: Ominous tension drips from every held string and key stroke. These progressions held steady through the majority of the song until a heavily affected and warped sequence pushes its way to the front of mix.
The affected sequence changes between distorted riffs and delicate arpeggiators, creating a new normal throughout the sonic space that still harkens to the old sound that bred it
The Visuals: The world and characters who inhabit this piece are an unsettling blend of Chernobyl’s climate and Stranger Thing’s world of the Upside Down. Characters move throughout the scenes, inspecting the dark and smokey gloom while at the same time contributing to its effects as their torch and flares smote plumes of ash.
What It All Means: The ominous and offsetting nature of the visuals and music creates a short, dystopian story that never resolves. The only glimpse of a promise shown is in the final scene, where natural moonlight replaces the fuming, man-made light of the torch. Where there’s moonlight, there is clear skies meaning the smoke is clearing (at least we can only hope).
‘BJA’ by Kasper Häggström & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: The music has a cosmic and questioning quality, as the light phasers create an ethereal movement for many of the background elements of the song.
This underpins the song’s main motif; a soft, delicate, and familiar-sounding synth that plays in no defined progression yet still makes sense.
Once again, the audio leaves us with a drifting and floating quality that never seems to resolve before being abruptly cut short before even the final bar can resolve.
The Visuals: The video shows a lone man being enticed to take a pair of shoes from a box trap. His suit and tie make him seem ready for a formal event.
We are left to assume that these shoes are all he needs before his outfit is ‘complete.’ But the video cuts short just as he reaches into the trap, leaving us to wonder what happens next.
What It All Means: The coloration and style of the shoes is hard to ignore as they hardly even go with the man’s outfit. Begging the question, perhaps how he presents himself all along was more than enough – and the gilded shoes were not but an unnecessary distraction.
This concept is affirmed in my mind when paired with the audio.
the music itself has a wandering quality to it, filled with ascending and descending progressions which mirror’s the thoughts I can only imagine around going through the man’s mind as he wrestle with the idea of reaching for the shoes.
‘The Downfall’ by Marc Reisbig & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: The music now begins to take a turn towards intensity as Röyksopp’s distorted bass lines and pounding percussions raise the energy to new heights.
The mix of this record is what stood out most to me.
The vocals were haunting and restrained, almost being drowned out by the more aggressive instrumentation. This effect created an intriguing sense of curiosity in me, as I strained to listen to the words and lyrics the vocalist was singing.
The Visuals: The video shows a man in plane clothing on the end of a yoyo trying to avoid being crushed each time the yoyo reaches its apex.
The simpleness of the man and the environment is critical to deciphering the meaning behind the video. This shows the danger and downward spiral of getting caught up in the mundane actions of the daily life.
This effect is reenforced by the gyre-like imagery on the yoyo, that, as it spins, moves in downward motion.
What It All Means: The simplistic and mundane imagery of the video, contrasted with the pure intensity of the music, shows just how intensely dangerous allowing yourself to get caught in the humdrum of mediocrity can be.
The whole piece starts en-medias-res, alluding that this man is forever trapped in the downfall of the life he live, and will be trapped forevermore.
‘The Conversation’ by Martin De Thurah & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: Continuing with the darker and more energetic music, this next track tells more of a journey than the previous three.
The rolling bass line and distorted synths all play towards building a spastic arch of tension and release. This effect is drawn out further through the slightly disharmonious notes or synth sequences that play in call and response; as if having a conversation that neither can understand.
The Visuals: The narrow frame of reference in this video and decolorized imagery work to remove all of the nuances in this video, leaving a lot of questions on the table.
With who is the priest having the conversation? Is it God? Is he giving last rights to an out-of-frame paritioner? Is he speaking to himself?
A the foreground remains unfocused, drawing out attention solely to the raw experience and actions of the priest. It’s impossible to focus on anything else.
What It All Means: The easy assumption to make is that the priest is mentally ill, but we are forced to ask ourselves why we jumped to such a conclusion?
With such limited context and information given to us, we ourselves are forced to act on instinct and deem the man deranged; likely avoiding any form on conversation that would shed light on the situation and add the context and color needed to know the truth behind the man.
‘Hour Between’ by Ida Andreasen & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: Of all the songs used in this series, this composition is by far the most predictable. You know how the bass line will move before the notes are played and you can predict the progression of the arpeggiator bars in advance.
This gives the music a particular quality that borders on deja-vu, where every changing of the chord feels premeditated, leaving you with a sense that you’re missing something.
The Visuals: Two things stuck out to me as fantastical in this short clip.
The most obvious is the three women shown; each at a different stage of life. This triunity has long been seen throughout much of Neopaganism and is closely tied to the concept of fate and destiny.
The second, and possibly less obvious, is the time of day in which the short scene takes place. A sliver of moon is in the sky yet the last bits of sunlight can still be seen. This twilight quality of day held much symbolic meaning to the ancient celts and Irish folklore, as it helped facilitate the crossing between the real world and the world of the fantastical.
What It All Means: The predictable, if not predestined, nature of the music cannot be ignored when placed against the visuals of the three women.
this quality is reinforced by the movement of the three women, who all seem to be moving towards a predestined destination as well. Notice the mindless way in which they all move throughout the twilight? It is eerily fantastical: a modern representation of folklore many cultures held much regard centuries before.
‘Mycelium’ by Martin Werner & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: The naturalistic sound palette of the track sets a holistic and haunting tone from the initial bars of the song.
From this foundation, a new form of composition grows – slowly evolving into an entirely synth-based arpeggiator progression.
But what stood out the most here is the contrasting emotions conveyed throughout each section. Where the pianos set a more melancholic and sentimental tone, the ascending synths lifted the song’s final measures.
The journey between natural and synthetic, sentimentality and ascension, was a fascinating journey to take.
The Visuals: The visual journey matched, beat for beat, the aforementioned journey of the song. The darkness of the natural world the woman began in slowly shifts to a bright hyper-reality (exemplified most clearly in the psychedelic morphing of her facial features.
The woman comes out the other side into the warmer lights of morning, with fresh light on her face and a smile across her lips.
What It All Means: Mycelium is vital link in many ecological chains, providing natural purification systems introduced into many ecosystems. In experiencing the growth of such an organism in the natural forest, the woman was able to experience her sort of purification.
while the exact nature of her affliction is never stated, a tight correlation can be made between the thread-like composition of the Mycelium and lines across our faces as we age.
Each has its own unique sense of progression and beauty despite our negative cultural connotations.
‘Initiation’ by Martin Furze & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: There is a strange sense of seeming throughout the song; which happens to be the longest song on the album (a fact that cannot be ignored upon a close reading).
While the composition ism masterfully crafted, the instrumentation has a touch of weird throughout. Pitch envelopes move the lead synths out of key constantly and the vocal hymns modulate between ominous and uplifting so fluidly, you hardly recognize the shift.
The Visuals: The common theme of the natural world, or the false representation of the natural world continues in this piece.
Most of the scenes are shot outdoors, by the fact they’re on the golf course belies the fact that it’s all phoney outdoor settings.
Meanwhile, the sense of baptismal rebirth and purging of one’s old self is discredited by the act of killing a squirrel (which, in the shot, seems to be the first initiation or the crossing of the first threshold moment).
The lead character is also hard to define here, a group of white-clad person swirl around the one central leader. Each character has a short moment in the spotlight, but only to show how worst their life has become since being indoctrinated into this golf course cult.
What It All Means: There is a disconnect throughout; which is best expressed through the off-settling juxtapositions of the video. The white robes they were contrast against the visceral bouts of blood. The tranquil natural setting contrasts against the faux-vironment of the golf course. The peaceful practices of the cult contrast against the terrors and tremors induced by the rituals.
This is far from an original narrative, but certainly shown in a unique way through this video.
‘I Hate My Shelf’ by Andreas Nilsson & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: By far the most dance-friendly track on the album, this track adds a certain level of energy to the rest of the body of work.
But what does this change in energy bring to the table?
It’s hard to deny the bedrock of much dance music was founded on a sense of escapism and as a safe space for those in search of self-expression. And the lyrics of the song reenforce this idea; which mark the singer as an outcast or ‘other.’ They simply want to be left alone and allowed to live as they want to life.
The Visuals: Much like in ‘The Conversation,’ it’s hard not to watch this video and not jump to conclusions about the two figures within it. They are much like the singer, living life in a way contradictory to many cultural assumptions.
What It All Means: What stuck out to me most throughout the video was the small teacup to thrown into motion reminiscent of the idiom ‘a storm in a teacup;’ which is to say – great outrage or excitement about a trivial matter.
So much emphasis is put upon people falling in line, conforming, and marching to the tune of a common drum when really, expressing yourself authentically, should never be that controversial of an issue; no matter what that mode of expression is.
‘Dreamer’ by Adam Bonke & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: There is a suspended nature to the music in this piece. Long, held notes and drawn-out vocal lines give a haunting and breath-taking effect that makes you hang on every phrase and measure without knowing where one bar starts and another ends.
These fuzzy boundaries offer much the same experience as dreaming, as the boundaries between what is real and what is not, or what is dreaming and what is waking, are blended into one.
The Visuals: The video shares much of the same qualities as the music, with the addition of the dancer enacting flowing movements unbound by control. The improv nature of her movements seem as if she is not in control of her own body, instead letting the dream take over.
The half-light and darkness of the video help showcase the fleeting quality of dreams that never seem to stay in your memory once you wake. You may have flashes of memory that rarely lack definition and clarity.
What It All Means: This is a visceral representation of what a living dream would be – no more, no less – as if the director bottled the idea of dreaming into a 2-minute-long container. So much so, further description only seeks to move further away from what the video is trying to accomplish.
‘Restart’ by Christian Holm-Glad & Röyksopp | Profound Mysteries
The Music: The song isn’t so much a song as it is a sonic and experimental soundscape. What starts as a simple public service announcement soon erodes into something a bit more dystopian after a few cycles.
The sound is also diegetic to the scene, as the bass cuts out at times in correspondence to the video and this is the only video in the series that includes sounds inherent to the link, like the closing of the trunk’s door.
This creates a sense of separation and movement in the piece, as if we are being moved around in an authentic space.
The Visuals: The separation mentioned above is continued in the video, as we now see that the seperation and movement of the sound corresponds directly where the woman is in the video.
The seperation is reinforced by the distance the woman has between the rest of the world. The only other lights in the scene are in the distant background and, while there are signs of life in the video, they too are shown moving far away from the woman.
What It All Means: There is an ephemeral quality that only sinks in after a few listens. A reset, or ‘Restart,’ is needed, but what must happen before that reset can occur? What must the woman, and by proxy us since the audio draws us closer into the world of the video to reset that seperation and disconnect from the world?
Röyksopp Profound Mysteries: Final Thoughts
While these videos and songs proved hard to pinpoint exactly the meaning or the intention of the creators behind their
While these videos and songs proved hard to pinpoint exactly the meaning or the intention of the creators behind their work, but after diving in a bit deeper one begins to the many common through lines of the videos.
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The most poignant one i found was the unreality of the world around us, and how we humans are more connected to our generation perception of reality than what is really true.
How we experience the woman in ‘Mycelium’ isn’t that different than how we interpret the priest’s actions in ‘The Conversation.’ The human ideas between the borderlands of waking and sleep throughout ‘Dreamer’ are made just as tangible as the lines between fate and control expressed in ‘Hour Between.’
And the music affirms this too.
Similar sound palettes and approaches to production are seen throughout all of the tracks of this series. Many of these tracks rely on masterfully crafted melodies and progressions that keep you slightly off-balance with pitch modulations or other effects that take you out of yourself.
Profound Mysteries truly is a work that is greater than the sum of its parts and what a gift it was by all involved to have brought this into the world.