Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique — Love Is Free — Review

John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.
John Preston

Much has been written regarding how music should be consumed now, or at least how it is presented for consumption and Robyn’s preference for the EP, or mini-album, as opposed to a full length album has been hailed as the way forward. She has now released another modest collection of songs following on from her successful collaboration with Röyksopp last year with their EP titled Do It Again.

Being a Robyn fan is still a frustrating experience though. Since 2005’s now classic Robyn, only one further full collection of songs has been released with 2010’s Body Talk (albeit again initially sold in teaser EP format) and now this, her second EP. These bite-sized hits of music may feel instant and euphoric but fail to fully showcase one of the world’s most fascinating and musically-obsessive pop stars in a more 3-dimensional, diverse setting – one in which she excels way beyond the majority of her contemporaries.

Love Is Free is a partnership between Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique, a family affair with a wistful and sad ending consisting of her keyboardist Markus Jagerstedt and close ally and friend Christian Faulk who died last year. Where 2014’s Röyksopp get-together fixated on tough electro pop and club hybrids whist also indulging the experimental with the 9-minute ‘The Idle Hour Club’, Love Is Free is obsessed with the musical past of the mid to late eighties and the disco and dance-pop that frequently filled up the video countdown of the long defunct ‘The Chart Show’ (ask yer mum!).

The lead track is a Latin-influenced, ‘Pump Up The Jam’ type tribute with Robyn adopting her best Neneh Chery stance on the rapped parts, and the frantic ‘Work It Out’ manages to sound like a Lisa Lisa breakbeat track with the crunked-up drum machines of classic Ciara. ‘Lose Control’ is the most interesting sonic expression of the 5 tracks here with its stark, slapping bass and the contrasting warmth of the eventual rave pads and is the track which could exist outside of this EP as a standalone and very good Robyn track.

‘Tell You (Today)’ has already appeared on a tribute album in honour of the sui generis Arthur Russell. It is an audacious and gorgeously produced cover that captures the joyous naivety of the original and uses every disco troupe imaginable: horns, strings, harp and a melancholic whistling hook. Robyn herself sounds fittingly forlorn and optimistic. There are no tempo-variations or let up from this celebratory and nostalgic mood and this seems to be the point of the release, an important and essential project for Robyn allowing her to move forward. The songs on Love Is Free may not be among her most essential but they will bring a big, dumb smile to your face – that’s a guarantee.

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