Album reviews: Kings of Convenience and BERWYN

Kings of Convenience are content to give the people what they want on their first album in 12 years, while singer/rapper BERWYN is aiming high

Annabel Nugent,Roisin O'Connor
Thursday 17 June 2021 13:49
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<p>Kings of Convenience</p>

Kings of Convenience

Kings of Convenience – Peace or Love

★★★☆☆

The Staves. Billie Marten. Ben Howard. Many of the folk lot have recently added some edge to their soothing, soporific sounds. Not Kings of Convenience. The Norwegian duo who emerged in the early Noughties are quite content to stick to their guns. And by guns, I mean soft vocals and even softer guitar melodies.

Peace or Love, their first album in 12 years, is perfectly pleasant and familiar, the tracks tracing the well-trodden vicissitudes of love in tones so subdued that they’d seem hushed even when played at maximum volume. Clearly, not much has changed for the guitar-plucking pair. This time, though, there is a welcome bossa nova influence that’s particularly discernible in faster tracks, such as “Angel” and “Fever”.

Lyrically, the pair have grown up. Where their 2001 song “Toxic Girl” (which was the closest the duo ever came to broaching the UK charts, peaking at 44) moaned about a girl for wanting every man but him, Peace or Love occasionally abandons this possessiveness. “The more I know about you / The more I want you,” Oye and Boe sing on “Catholic Country”, “The less I care about who / Was there before I found you.”

Across 11 tracks, Kings of Convenience give the people what they want. Their vocals – punctuated with the occasional Norwegian inflection – float pleasantly above the instrumentals like heat haze coming off tarmac. In the kindest way possible, it’s music to fall asleep to. Preferably in a meadow of flowers with a glass of elderflower cordial nearby. More likely, Peace or Love will soundtrack TV ads for home insurance. Either way, we’ll be humming along. If it ain’t broke… AN

BERWYN – TAPE 2/FOMALHAUT

Rapper and singer BERWYN

★★★★☆

BERWYN has been through it. “Tired of being tired, tired of being pissed off,” the rapper and singer born Berwyn Du Bois sings on his new mixtape. “All I wanna do is go to sleep.” It’s a project steeped in regret, fear, and resentment at the pressure he feels from the outside world. Don’t let that put you off, though. It’s also very good.

TAPE 2/FOMALHAUT reasserts the Trinidad-born artist’s skill at interweaving rap, electronic and trip-hop. This mixtape comes after his signing to Sony and a spot on the BBC’s Sound of 2021 poll; several tracks depict BERWYN tussling with the trappings of early fame. On “FULL MOON FREESTYLE, he feels guilty about celebrating his success while his friends struggle to get by. “Wrong Ones” has him questioning, over crawling piano notes and scuttling beats, the betrayals of people who should have had his back.

The sparse, ghostly sound of James Blake hovers like fog over “Vinyl”, in BERWYN’s lonely mumbling, the arpeggiating piano and hip-hop percussion. “I’d Rather Die Than Be Deported” is magnificently understated: a poignant and vivid account of his struggles on the fringes of London life. It’s a brilliant account of strife by an artist who knows, all too well, that it’s lonely at the top. ROC

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