Shining: In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will be a Monster
Rune Grammofon

Multiple spirits haunt Shining's third release (and first for Rune Grammofon), the defiantly-titled In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster. The album collects ‘70s-era Crimson-styled rave-ups, Ornette-inspired wailing, and ECM lyricism into a powerful whole, the band showing itself equally adept at conjuring crushing walls-of-sound as gentle ruminations. The injection of a prog dimension signals a marked change from the group's former, primarily jazz-based style, though ten tracks in thirty-nine minutes doesn't permit much stretching out. Look for no interminable soloing or twenty-minute suites here; the Norway-based quartet, which includes former Jaga Jazzist member and multi-instrumentalist Jørgen Munkeby and current Jaga keyboard player Andreas Schei (former Jaga keyboardist Morten Qvenild appears on the album but has since left the group for other projects), makes its collective points with visceral, incendiary dispatch and then moves on.

The change in the band's sound is signaled immediately in the opener “Goretex Weather Report” when an introductory sax-bass pairing gives way to a gargantuan caterwaul of screaming guitar and flailing drums, the sound reminiscent of “Red” in its growling apocalyptic intensity. Following that, a quieter though no less portentous theremin-tinged episode of unusual meters and rigorous geometric patterns ensues in a spirit that recalls “Fracture.” A lumbering prog-blues groove appears in “Perdurabo” with a front line of guitars, both razor sharp and scarred, etching doom-laden themes while drum clatter pounds an end-of-the-world tattoo.

Equally loud though stylistically contrasting, “Aleister Explains Everything” spotlights a prototypically cubist Ornette sax theme, with Munkeby and company unleashing a noise reminiscent of John Zorn's Ornette tribute band Spy vs. Spy. Shining's ECM leanings surface in acoustic-oriented tracks like “Romani,” “Where Death Comes To Cry,” and “You Can Try the Best You Can” with the latter two nurturing sombre and reflective settings from accordion, harmonium, and woodwinds that recall Dino Saluzzi's work.

Though the album's stylistically eclectic, Shining generally pulls it off, even if the collection's diversity sometimes amounts to a lack of focus. Veering fleetingly from military drumming to voice scatting, funk, and music box episodes, “The Smoking Dog,” for instance, comes across as a mercurial patchwork that's a bit too self-indulgent. Still, an occasional misstep is a small price to pay for music so fearlessly adventurous and bold.

April 2005