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
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more