Release Date: Oct 2, 2020
Record label: Skint Records
In the years between 2007's Overpowered and 2015's Hairless Toys, Róisín Murphy issued a string of singles that were as excellent as her albums. "Simulation," a 2012 collaboration with producer Richard Barratt, was a particularly glittering highlight of that era. A swirl of mirror ball sparkles and dry ice fog, it spoke to Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's transporting version of disco as well as Murphy's skill at sweeping listeners into a world of her own.
Róisín Murphy has very little to prove at this stage. A solo artist for 15 years since the demise of Moloko, she’s produced consistently inventive, genre-bending material. Her last two records – Hairless Toys and Take Her Up To Monto, made with Eddie Stevens – combined irresistible grooves with a theatrical quality that perfectly suits her delivery.
Over the course of the last 30 years, Róisín Murphy has made enough classics to fill up the Top 40 of a more fabulous world. To paraphrase the one-time announcer of this awful world's pop countdown, Murphy has kept her couture-shod feet on the ground and kept reaching for the stars--though her idea of a star is more Cosey Fanni Tutti dancing to Sylvester than your average pop idol. The Irish singer-songwriter's fifth solo album, Róisín Machine, might seem in some ways like the same old song and dance.
As a statement of intent, Murphy is explicit: "This is the simulation, this is the demonstration" she sighs, "this is the realm of my wildest dreams, these are my wildest dreams", the intensity breaking into an unassuming synth chord breakdown before picking up the exact same way it did prior, nothing much happens here, but Róisín, accompanied by the masterful production of DJ Parrot (Crooked Man) take a minimalistic approach here, and throughout, making something sonically rich and gripping. This suspense laden drama is continued on the beatless, modular synths of the six minutes of cosmic space disco, "Kingdom Of Ends", little more than an ecstatic breakdown which goes through various stages of apprehension, Murphy urging herself to "Keep going in, keep going on / What the hell am I doing?" before sighing "This is easier than the comedown" to herself. Róisín Machine plays out like a best of collection, which in some ways it is as six of the ten tracks have been standalone releases dating back to 2012, a number crossing with the release of her third, 2015's Hairless Toys, and fourth album, Take Her Up to Monto a year later.
Speculating about why disco is having yet another resurgence is something of a fool's errand. But it must be more than a coincidence that, like with every other resurgence, this one coincides with a new Róisín Murphy project. And this is her most defiantly disco record to date. Where 'Overpowered' or 'Take Her Up To Monto' might veer off on prog or avant garde jaunts, 'Róisín Machine' is lit exclusively by the glitterball.
There are few artists who are genuinely cool — self-possessed and unserious, powerful and vulnerable, the kind of person you want to impress. Roísín Murphy, Ireland's unflappable patron saint of dance, is one of these artists. Her new record, the sweating disco onslaught Roísín Machine, is evidence of an artist uninterested in zeitgeist-baiting, the sound of discovering new colours decades into an already kaleidoscopic career.
Leading with singles like 'Incapable', 'Narcissus', and 'Murphy's Law', it's instantly apparent that Roisin Murphy is constructing 'Roisin Machine' into a pristinely manufactured persona. Perhaps that's a direct representation of the curated character the record revolves around; the voice Roisin performs as is in itself pristinely manufactured. It feels like every lyric is gentle and coiffed, soft and styled like the character is.
"I feel my story is still untold," Roisin Murphy intones breathily at the beginning of her new album. "But I'll make my own happy ending." Like so much of the artist's work, there's a sense of humour, melodrama and self-deprecation to what she says, but it always rings true. Roisin Machine captures the singer at her most triumphant, finally comfortable in her role as an alt-pop icon--there's something casual and more assured about this Roisin Murphy.
We are standing in the future, and also in the past -- or maybe in no time at all. A sensual, looping beat drops from the sky as the conceiver, sculptor, and breathless orator of this simulated reality steps up to the tannoy. Róisín Murphy - self-mythologiser, aesthete, blue-rubber-legginged nightclub magician - has conjured this place from not so far beyond her wildest dreams.