The celebratory focal point between producers and vocalists regularly shifts back and forth. In the recent EDM moment, that's meant a spotlight on the figures behind the decks who employ a mercenary lineup of singers to breathe life into their compositions. But when the balance is struck right, as seems to be the case between Norwegian duo Röyksopp and Swedish pop star extraordinaire Robyn, the synergy is evident.
As if to illustrate the laudatory pendulum, the trio, touring behind their recent “Do It Again” EP, took turns on stage Friday night at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. Röyksopp’s Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland pulled from their 15-plus-year career of ambient, downtempo, and chill-out tracks, including the Parliament-sampling 2009 near-hit “Happy Up Here” and the one-time ubiquitous, eminently likable “Remind Me” with Berge handling the soft-spoken vocal duties over an amped-up beat arrangement. Despite the relatively tame volume — seated amphitheaters like this are less than ideal for dance-driven concerts — the lineup expanded to 10 people on stage at once, with two drummers, keyboardists, saxophone, and guest vocalist Zhala, who opened the show. She acquitted herself well in the vocal role of the Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, on the foreboding, anxiety-inducing “What Else Is There?”
Robyn tagged in next, dressed like she was about to sub into a scrimmage for the ThunderCats soccer club. For all of Robyn's highly danceable, infectious energy, there's always a strong sense of melancholy in her music, as the selections here reminded us. “Be Mine!,” with its rapidly-swooping strings riff, was ruefully sung, while “Indestructible,” for all its agitated synths and huge singalong hooks, was similarly tear-inducing. Not nearly as much as the fragile, gradually ascending “Every Heartbeat,” perhaps the purest distillation of Robyn's crying-on-the-dance-floor magic. Hits “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Dancing on My Own” were naturally rapturously received. On the latter the music dropped out and the crowd sang a booming rendition of the jealousy anthem a cappella.
Röyksopp reemerged to join Robyn on stage for a third set, and the abashed unlucky-in-love singer's persona transformed into a darker context, her exuberant athleticism morphing into something like the slithery Rogue character from the X-Men movies. It matched the headier musical shift of the “Do It Again” EP's tracks like “Say It,” where the needle pushed further toward the robotic side. “Every Little Thing” and “Monument” were perhaps too contemplative and slow-moving at this point in the night, with the latter stretching to nearly nine minutes of reserved bass pulses and mournful saxophone. Closers “None of Dem” and “The Girl and the Robot” reinvigorated the crowd however, with Robyn and Berge, now wearing a sci-fi style robot helmet, enacting the central metaphor of the trio's partnership. Sometimes it takes a girl to make the robot feel alive.