Published Sep 23, 2020There 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.
Those after the locked-in pop immediacy of 2007's "Let Me Know" or the playful bossanova of 2016's "Lip Service" may find themselves lost in Roísín Machine's marathon throb — this is music to move deeply to, to melt into and let your muscles react as they may. The entire record taps into the ecstatic robo-sensuality of Donna Summer's landmark "I Feel Love" — laced with moans and anchored by Murphy's smoky, never-been-better voice, it mines new depths of desire, humour, resignation and passion on the dance floor even as it moves with the air-tight efficiency of its titular machine.
It's built like a club mix, each song melting into the next in a pulsing chain, and the pre-released singles are reintroduced with slightly new arrangements. Murphy presides over these long, serpentine tracks with an untouchable cool, her delivery rarely belying the carnal humanity of the lyrics. Her power is borne of a refusal to be embarrassed by or afraid of her faults and feelings, and she runs the gamut of the heart here: "I'm totally in love with you," she sings on shimmying highlight "Shellfish Mademoiselle," while on superb single "Incapable," she wonders, "Never had a broken heart / Am I incapable of love?"
Its heights, from the gargantuan "We Got Together" to the tender groove of the Amy Douglas-penned "Something More" or the frantic funk of closer "Jealousy" — far outweigh its weaker spots, like the somewhat directionless throb of "Kingdom of Ends." Still, the lows are only relative to the highs — Roísín Machine is among Murphy's best works, a showcase for one of dance music's most endlessly fascinating figures. (Loaded)