Given Röyksopp's 2000 debut Melody AM was the best chill-out album since Moon Safari, it was a bit of a risk for Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge to take this step into a new territory of club-friendly dance music - even if it did take them five years.
But how well it worked. Excellent single Only This Moment deserved to be massive on its release, and Beautiful Day Without You is a great song to shimmy too as well. The album is funkier without losing its predecessor's chilled charm - so the brilliant What Else Is There? is all the better for the wintry Scandinavian vibe that was lacking in the Thin White Duke floorfiller remix that conquered clubs for a while.
Alpha Male, meanwhile, sets its sights high on Melody AM's epic tune Röyksopp's Night Out and surpasses it in both length and quality.
Yet as successful as the new direction is, Röyksopp are still at their best when laying the sort of slow, melancholy rhythms that sees them so closely associated with fellow Norwegians Kings Of Convenience. Someone Like You is really quite touching, and Dead To The World is a sublime wedge of cool that should be listened to by anyone in need of five minutes' relaxation. It trumps the fuck out of whale music.
There's something else, though, that sets this album apart from its competitors. Röyksopp have always had a hidden package, and that's their lyrics. For a duo that specialise in instrumentals and don't speak English as a first language, they're not bad wordsmiths:
Brave men tell the truth
A wise man's tools are analogies and puzzles
A woman holds her tongue
Knowing silence will speak for her
That's actually part of a track from Melody AM, and while The Understanding isn't necessarily as philosophical, it does delve deeper than most dance albums. As cheesy as it sounds, "I know I might lose you by taking the chance, but love without pain isn't really romance" does at least make you think a bit more than "Kalifornia is druggy druggy druggy druggy."
This record is a top quality fusion of chill-out and modern dance. You should own it.