Kings Of Convenience : Versus

Norwegian acoustic duo gently remixed

Remix albums are, as a rule,

sturdy urban beasts. Submit an acoustic ballad to the typical electronic

production crew, and chances are that their brief will be to beat the

mimsiness out of it and make the tune palatable for those whose vision

of Eden is a retro-industrial-styled Hoxton bar rather than a beautiful

place out in the country. ‘Versus’, however, is a

little different. It comes boasting fashionable remixers who often,

remarkably, up the rustic ante, so that the tunes emerge on the other

side smelling of leaf mulch rather than amyl nitrate.

Perhaps the

defiantly fragrant Kings

Of Convenience , by some distance the most talented of this year’s

new acoustic crop, are just too soppy to tool up. More likely, though,

this was all part of Eirik Glambek Bøe and

Erlend Øye’s devious plan. For two men who trade so much

on ingenuousness, the Kings

Of Convenience have shown an unusual amount of calculation in their

manoeuvrings thus far. There was the early networking in Badly

Drawn Boy ‘s Manchester scene, for instance; and plenty of that lot

contribute mixes here. Then the Norwegian duo’s fine debut album earlier

this year was blessed with the title ‘Quiet Is The New

Loud’, suggesting a slightly over-eager grasp of the zeitgeist.

The way that ‘Versus’ shapes up shows Bøe and

Øye’s keen eye for a trend has not diminished. The prevailing

style is that which, in the wake of Boards Of Canada

and Four Tet’s success, has been rather ludicrously

termed folktronica. So digital beats and noises don’t obliterate all

those lustrous strummed acoustic guitars, they [I]empathise with

them. These are cultivated hybrids, exemplified by Four Tet’s

superb upholstering of ‘Weight Of My Words’,

where the winsome vocals are threaded between rippling, looped and

largely unrecognisable instruments, a sleepy hip-hop beat and,

naturally, some small children in the background.

Predominantly, the

subtle tweakers are either Mancunians (Andy Votel,

Riton, Bamboo Soul or the Kings’

homeboys from Bergen (Erot, Evil

Tordivel, the excellent Röyksopp). It’s a little more complicated than a simple remix album, with

veteran string arranger David Whitaker filling out a

version of ‘Toxic Girl’ and Alfie

recording their own take on ‘Failure’ that replaces the

original’s prissiness with their usual haphazard charm.

A collection of

B-sides, out-takes and limited-edition mixes doesn’t quite have the same

cultural cachet as a fully-fledged remix project, of course. And in

spite of ‘Versus’ being closer to the former (about

half of these tracks have been available before), it still feels like

the best kind of the latter: a bunch of remixes that’ve been sensitively

commissioned and compiled so that they work properly as an album in

their own right. Organic, you could say, stretching a point – and a must

for this season’s more style-conscious Harvest Festivals.

John Mulvey