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Kings Of Convenience
Declaration Of Dependence Charles Ubaghs , November 2nd, 2009 08:50

Bromance, like metrosexual before it, is the latest buzz term to be used in the media's continuing assault on the once-impenetrable walls of masculinity. Urbandictionary.com defines it as 'The complicated love and affection shared by two straight males.' Close friendship by any other name, then.

Kings of Convenience's Erlend Øye (also of the Whitest Boy Alive) and Eirik Glambeck Bøe have been embroiled in a 'bromantic' relationship for a number of years. They've even pulled off the near-impossible by making it work long-distance. Over the past decade the Norwegian natives have done time in London, Manchester, Berlin and their hometown of Bergen, rarely living together in the same postal code. Many would view such distance as an insurmountable strain on any relationship. Yet a recent Barbican gig showcased a warmth between the two that bordered on the incandescent, laced with the kind of acerbic banter that only stems from a lengthy, intimate camaraderie. Distance, it seems, has in no way diminished the pair's mutual affection. And now, to publicly reaffirm the strength of their bond, the duo have named their long-awaited third LP Declaration of Dependence.

Noise-mongers will continue to find the inoffensive nature of the King's restrained, harmony-laden folk offensive. But the ascendancy of noise among this decade's musical cognoscenti has been matched by an equal surge in (indie) folk's popularity, making the title of the King's 2001 breakthrough, Quiet is the New Loud, rather prescient. While many of their peers favour boorish histrionics that mistake diary excerpts and bleeding-heart wailing for emotional depth, Øye and Bøe have never travelled far from a singular strain of sparse melancholy. It's a place they return to on Declaration of Dependence, and this time they've tightened their formula even further by abandoning the few embellishments — drums, the odd electric guitar — used on previous outings.

Not that this should be interpreted as a venture into the more sonically daring yet equally (if not more) subdued avenues championed by the likes of Portland's Grouper. Kings of Convenience are still a band beholden to melody and gentle hooks, with 'Rule my World' and 'Mrs Cold's forays into soft boss nova providing ample proof of their continued allegiance to the cause. And while these moments veer dangerously close to cloying, Øye and Bøe repeatedly pull things back from the edge. The austere vocals and repetitive riffs of closer 'Scars on the Land' dominate large chunks of Declaration of Dependence. The results, at least in spirit, more closely resemble the subtle shifts in mood and texture that govern the minimal end of Øye's beloved dance music (his DJ Kicks entry is one of the series' highlights) than anything produced by the bearded choirboy brigade of recent years.

Of course, their music is so pleasant that Kings of Convenience will forever be lumped in with the coffee-table set. Declaration of Dependence is simply a reminder that quiet, intelligent gestures can still be made with just a couple of voices and a few guitars.

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