Shining (Nor) - Grindstone
Rune Grammofon
Progressive/Jazz Rock, Avant-Garde
12 songs (44:00)
Release year: 2007
Shining (Nor), Rune Grammofon
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

No, this is not the Kvarforth-fronted bunch of Swedish Black Metal reprobates that believe in self-harm as an integral part of the live experience, but the Norwegian experi-mentalists. Summing their sound up is hard - Porcupine Tree, King Crimson and Mr Bungle together doesn't explain the half of it; it's surprising to hear just how complex Shining are. What amazes me is the sheer musicality of the band, the way they can take the various elements and put them together to create a tapestry that never fails to grip. Experimental music, particularly of the Avant-Garde variety, features all too rarely on my playlist due to the sheer effort it can take to get to grips with, yet if you've learnt an ear for truly out-there Prog then it really can be satisfying to a greater extent than music which follows more conventional paths.

Take the opening track here, In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster. Technical riffs and vocals churn in a strange mix, a melodic keyboard line is added before it all is dropped and drums and bass become the lead instruments, catchy rhythms appear and vanish, flutes, guitars - yet it never sounds messy, rather making a strange sort of sense. It's practically impossible not to feel that Shining have written a catchy Prog Rock track rather than thrown elements in at random, as there is a central riff holding things together that is twisted and turned by the band - it's stylistically King Crimsonesque to the extreme, Shining studying the blueprints and eagerly reverse-engineering, curious as to how the internal machinery works, before creating something completely new from the individual parts.

As you'd expect from my invocation of the crimson kings, the musicianship is pretty top-notch, although looking at the band members' backgrounds is intriguing. Two members did time in Jagga Jazzist, a ten-piece electronica and Jazz combination, and the bassist was involved in Hip-Hop, and this diversity is brought into play often. Rather than repeating the same song over and over again, the band have mixed the album up wonderfully, doing anything but repeating themselves, and whilst Grindstone flows so well that it can be difficult to think of it as anything but a single long song, there are many highlights which can be picked out and enjoyed. Sudden lurches into cultured Classical smoothness are matched by the gleeful tumbling through Jazz territory - almost psychedelic rock elements giving it that extra sparkle.

You probably know whether you'd enjoy this or not by now, but it's worth repeating how enjoyable and easy-to-listen to Shining are, especially if your idea of Progressive music begins and ends at Dream Theater. Moments like the harpsichord solo on Winterreise should be well within the comprehension skills of all sorts of Metalheads, particularly when the song turns enjoyably orchestral and epic soon after. There's no reason not to dig the comparative heaviness of Stalemate Longan Runner which is almost Stoner in vibe and boldness, but it's easy to appreciate moments like the ambient interlude of To Be Proud Of Crystal Colours Is To Live Again and the gentle Moonchild Mindgames, something like Pink Floyd scoring an unusually laid-back Laurel & Hardy episode. Heck, even the outrageous crossover Jazz flourishes of The Red Room are instantaneous and fun, the dense percussive backing giving strength and heaviness. Progressive Rock is rarely as intelligent and welcoming as this, even some nowadays rather clichéd female vocals being well-used in the ominous yet lovely Psalm.

More inquiring listeners will enjoy the depth of the intelligence that's gone into this album, little titbits like the title of the spacey 1-4-9 being the dimensions of the mysterious black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and - -... .- - . - .... being Morse code for Bach. Taken as music rather than mental exercise, however, Grindstone will please many listeners and is rather a triumph for Shining - Prog Rock that's very experimental without losing its accessibility, that hints at influences rather than pilfering them, that is modern without going so far as to offend traditionalists. Highly recommended for Progheads especially, but all with an open mind should find themselves enthralled.

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Killing Songs :
In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster, Stalemate Longan Runner, The Red Room, Asa Nisis Masa, Psalm
Goat quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Shining (Nor) that we have reviewed:
Shining (Nor) - One One One reviewed by Koeppe and quoted 87 / 100
Shining (Nor) - Blackjazz reviewed by Goat and quoted 95 / 100
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