Plumbiferous Media

Declaration of Dependence - Kings of Convenience

Oct 22nd 2009
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Declaration of Dependence - Kings of Convenience Kings of Convenience
Declaration of Dependence
Score: 95

The Kings of Con­ve­nience, Erlend Øye and Eirik Glam­bek Bøe, have now been active for about a decade, pro­duc­ing under the Astral­w­erks label, and more recent­ly, EMI. In fact, the bands first album under EMI was released this past Tues­day, and Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence cer­tain­ly shows off the band’s healthy lev­el of expe­ri­ence. The duo’s new album con­tin­ues in the vein of relaxed, almost purist music that the Kings of Con­ve­nience have made their home, and Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence is not only one of the best light albums recent­ly released but also one of the top albums released this year.

Although cer­tain non-gui­tar stringed instru­ments will occa­sion­al­ly add them­selves to the album, and a key­board can even be heard briefly on “Free­dom and Its Own­er,” the Kings of Con­ve­nience focus­es main­ly on devel­op­ing its two most impor­tant instru­ments, its gui­tars. Although roles shift as flu­id­ly as the music itself, the stan­dard arrange­ment seems to be one rhythm gui­tar and one melod­ic or har­mon­ic gui­tar. Although both work togeth­er to cre­ate an incred­i­bly diverse, beau­ti­ful album, the rhythm gui­tar must be giv­en its own award for act­ing not only as sim­ply a rhythm gui­tar, but a per­cus­sion instru­ment as nec­es­sary. And as is to be expect­ed from two expert gui­tarists, the instru­men­tal sec­tion of the album nev­er falls short of excel­lent. Instru­ments nev­er cease to inter­act per­fect­ly with one anoth­er, nev­er stray too long on a sin­gle seg­ment and fall into repet­i­tive­ness, nev­er fail to pro­vide per­fect amounts of con­trast between tracks, and always remain rich, tex­tu­ral­ly detailed, decep­tive­ly intri­cate, and utter­ly beautiful.

The vocal inter­play between Erlend Øye and Eirik Glam­bek Bøe is both beau­ti­ful­ly com­posed and per­fect­ly suit­ed to the slow, melod­ic sound of Kings of Con­ve­nience. Almost con­stant vocal har­monies pro­vide vocal lay­ers through­out the music, which change posi­tion flu­id­ly, care­ful­ly pre­vent­ing con­flict between the two vocal­ists. Instead, their voic­es are expert­ly fit togeth­er, both with each oth­er and with­in the larg­er musi­cal cocoon of Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence. It’s a fun­da­men­tal­ly sim­ple com­bi­na­tion, but one which is respon­si­ble for a remark­able amount of Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence’s suc­cess. Vocal­ly, Kings of Con­ve­nience cre­ates a sound that is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly clear and beau­ti­ful­ly com­plex - not unlike their music as a whole.

Lyri­cal­ly, Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence is sim­ple but by no means sim­plis­tic. The way in which Øye and Bøe’s vocals com­ple­ment each oth­er is dou­bly impres­sive when applied to the imagery through­out Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence. One of the bet­ter tracks of the album, “My Ship Isn’t Pret­ty,” begins with the intrigu­ing “The tele­graph gave us hope / Before was the silence and the pan­ic it brought / The sky was the blank­est sheet / We drew lines upon it so our thoughts could meet.” Slight­ly sub­dued vocals tell the tale beau­ti­ful­ly, with details such as the slight exha­la­tion on the last syl­la­ble of “hope” infus­ing the music with life. Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence is care­ful­ly filled with com­pelling sto­ries of this sort, such that it is as strong lyri­cal­ly as it is vocally.

And not only do the lyrics fit per­fect­ly with the vocals, but the vocals fit per­fect­ly with the instru­men­tals, the instru­men­tals reflect the mean­ing of the lyrics, and the entire album con­stant­ly pulls itself into a cohe­sive, nev­er tir­ing sea of music. Addi­tion­al­ly com­mend­able is the record­ing and mas­ter­ing itself, which man­aged to pro­vide the album in extreme clar­i­ty, but also immense­ly detailed depth of sound, and even more notice­ably, warmth of sound, all to an extent that is gen­er­al­ly quite dif­fi­cult to achieve with­out a vinyl copy. Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence is, though maybe not the per­fect album, cer­tain­ly an amaz­ing album, from any and every perspective.

Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence is a tri­umph for Kings of Con­ve­nience. Com­bin­ing expert­ly orches­trat­ed vocals, well-writ­ten and intrigu­ing lyrics, and well-com­posed instru­men­tals, all with the sub­tle­ty that is a trade­mark of the group, Kings of Con­ve­nience has tak­en all of the best parts of their ear­li­er work and com­bined it into their best work so far. Dec­la­ra­tion of Depen­dence is thought-pro­vok­ing, intrigu­ing, entire­ly gen­uine, and in short, excellent.

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