Kings of Convenience — Quiet Is the New Loud
(Astralwerks ASW29072-2, 2001, CD)
Kings of Convenience — Versus
(Astralwerks ASW 11235-2, 2001, CD)
Kings of Convenience — Riot on an Empty Street
(Astralwerks ASW 71665, 2004, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2007-03-01
This is one of those belated discoveries, where a copy of this Norwegian duo’s latest came into my possession, and then I attempted to work my way backward to their self-titled (and completely out-of-print) debut. No go. That debut was re-released with some additional tracks as Quiet Is the New Loud the following year. Driven by two voices and acoustic guitars, with a little piano and electric guitar, occasional light drum arrangements, and a whole lot of excellent songwriting, theirs is a soft, gentle, folk-infused sound with delicate instrumental interplay and melodious harmonies, often introspective in a sort-of alternative way, while still remaining positive and uplifting. I’m certain these guys have listened to more than a few Simon & Garfunkel albums somewhere in their past, but other comparisons might be Nick Drake or (especially on the more upbeat tunes) Silver Morning era Kenny Rankin. Above all, it’s the duo’s songwriting that shines the brightest, and if there is a fault, it’s the samey-ness of the arrangements.
Less than a year after its release, nearly all the material from Quiet Is the New Loud was presented again on Versus in the form of remixes, collaborations, and rearrangements involving other outside musicians and arrangers. For the most part the material is embellished with additional instrumentation and voices, and in most cases the spirit of the original versions are maintained.
The latest release, Riot on an Empty Street, presents the duo’s songwriting and harmonies amidst more robust arrangements, as opposed to the barebones approach of the debut. Perhaps it was the influence of Versus. The opener “Homesick” sounds like an outtake from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, but the remainder of the disc shows a lot more growth and variety, progressing onward from their earlier work. Additional guest musicians join on a number of instruments and are employed in varying degrees on nearly every track, yet the core of the band’s sound remains unchanged. The pace and scope of the arrangements veer freely into soft pop, jazz, light chamber, acoustic, and folk territory, sometimes all within the same track. The end result is a far more balanced program overall, as the tracks alternate between various moods and levels of energy. Nonetheless, when everything is considered, Riot is consistent and a solid step forward for these Kings. Quiet and Riot are both good starting points, while Versus is more like a laboratory for changes to come.
Related artist(s): Kings of Convenience
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more