Whether as Whitest Boy Alive, Kings Of Convenience or solo, Erlend Øye has never been one to release albums with much fanfare. But where WBA’s 2006 debut Dreams took time to reveal its dark-hearted charms; Rules is just too polite to pack a punch.
The music is brighter than before, with keys player Daniel Nentwig having a greater influence, and the album does have its moments: Gravity is understated and beautiful and several tracks stretch out into ESG-influenced jams, albeit modestly, throwing silent disco shapes that are only a remix away from being 4/4 club staples.
But therein lies the problem. On the one hand, Øye’s sweet Scandinavian vowels are ill-suited to the big disco sound; on the other, there isn’t enough life in the production for it to go all out on the dancefloor. Rules ultimately falls between a rock and a hard house.
By the time Oye sings, “It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotion,” with the sort of deadpan expression that wins poker tournaments, it is increasingly hard to care. New Order proved early on that minimal guitars, melancholy vocals and sublime dance beats needn’t be mutually exclusive things, but Rules quickly becomes a battle of the blands; flat-pack sounds for the Ikea set. (5)