Album: SHINING – Grindstone (Rune Grammofon RCD2060 2007)

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Norway’s Shining are a band most often compared to compatriots Jaga Jazzist – indeed two of the quartet, Jørgen Munkeby and Andreas Hessen Schei, are both alumni of that group. There are similarities, but Shining have a prog-rock/metal bent that sounds horrible on paper, but is aurally compelling.

Like Jaga Jazzist, Shining are predominantly instrumental, and have a jazz backbone. But this is twisted beyond recognition as the group veers from thrash metal workouts to quirky little passages that sound like the soundtracks to those mad Czech animations from the seventies. Often these happen in the same song. On first listen, Grindstone sounds a mess as it jumps from hard bop to quasi-opera via bits that sound like Pere Ubu, changing time signatures seemingly at random. The pieces that stand out among the chaos are the moments of grace, particularly the stunning “Psalm” which starts like a Boards Of Canada piece but builds into a stately epic of startling beauty with a mesmerising vocal by guest soprano Åshild Skiri Refsdal. It sounds like the kind of thing that Radiohead have strived for in the past, but never achieved with such panache.

With repeated listens, though, Grindstone comes across as a mesmeric and seamless suite whose closest sonic cousin is another uncategorisable band, Van Der Graaf Generator. It’s a truly remarkable album that reveals new depths with each listen and is thoroughly recommended to all who don’t require their music to be easily digested at the first sitting.

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