Album reviews: Kings of Convenience and BERWYN

Kings of comfort – Peace or love

★★★ ☆☆

The bars. Billie Marten. Ben Howard. Many of the ethnic group have recently added a certain edge to their soothing, sleepy sounds. Not kings of convenience. The Norwegian duo that emerged in the early noughties are content to stick with their guns. And by guns I mean smooth vocals and even softer guitar melodies.

Peace or Love, their first album in 12 years, is absolutely pleasant and familiar, the tracks trace the well-worn vicissitudes of love in such muted tones that they appear mute even at maximum volume. Obviously, not much has changed for the guitar-plucked pair. There is a welcome bossa nova influence this time around, which is especially noticeable in faster tracks like “Angel” and “Fever”.

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

Recommended

Kings of Convenience give people what they want on 11 tracks. Her singing – interrupted by the occasional Norwegian touch – hovers pleasantly over the instrumental pieces like a veil of heat coming from the asphalt. In the friendliest possible way, it’s music to get you to sleep. Preferably on a flower meadow with a glass of elderflower syrup nearby. It is more likely that Peace or Love will set TV commercials for home insurance to music. Either way we’ll hum along. If it’s not broken … ON

BERWYN – VOLUME 2 / FOMAL SKIN

(Frank Fieber)

★★★★ ☆

BERWYN has been through it. “Tired of being tired, tired of being pissed off,” sings the born rapper and singer Berwyn Du Bois on his new mixtape. “I just want to go to sleep.” It is a project full of regret, fear and resentment about the pressure he is feeling from the outside world. But don’t let that put you off. It’s very good too.

Recommended

TAPE 2 / FOMALHAUT reaffirms the Trinidadian born artist’s ability to interweave rap, electronics and trip-hop. This mixtape comes after being signed to Sony and featured in the BBC Sound of 2021 poll; several tracks show how BERWYN wrestles with the insignia of early fame. On “FULL MOON FREESTYLE” he feels guilty about celebrating his success while his friends struggle to survive. “Wrong Ones” lets him question the betrayal of people who would have his back free with crawling piano notes and scurrying beats.

The sparse, ghostly sound of James Blake hovers like fog over “vinyl”, in BERWYN’s lonely murmur, the arpeggiated piano and hip-hop percussion. “I’d Rather Die Than Be Deported” is wonderfully reserved: a poignant and lively account of his struggles on the fringes of London life. It’s a brilliant account of an argument from an artist who knows all too well that it’s lonely at the top. ROC