Strikingly original Norwegian art-rock combo makes its debut for the prestigious experimental label Rune Grammofon, piling clattering drum machines, moaning synths and samplers, swooning vocal harmonies, and thunderous, window-rattling cathedral organs atop an alternately creeping and brutally visceral brass foundation. Colossal. Shining keep things brief, subtle, tight, and aesthetically on-the-mark, suggesting progness (or at least, jazz kids spreading their rock wings) is often less about duration and bombast than complexity, invention, and the rigorous interplay of its players.
In the Kingdom of Kitsch is a strong, fresh statement; where other bands that draw on similar histories fall into habits of being aggressively weird (often, seemingly for its own sake), Shining's music bears a somber austerity, never forsaking emotional tone for a musical circus, reinvigorating the music of their predecessors with a reverent, tense energy.
Opener ”Goretex Weather Report” had me crying with laughter at its Death Metal riffing, although this is Death Metal with the technique of classic Mahavishnu Orchestra. Oddly time-signatured jazz rock of the Henry Cow school mixes with electronics, neoclassicism and free jazz in one unholy blizzard of noise. There´s also some harmolodic Ornette Coleman in here too. Munkeby and his accomplices also create beautiful, almost Ligeti-like soundscapes.
The Wire (UK)
A band from Norway whose members have jumped from jazz to something much bigger - not the millionth dopey, clinical fusion of jazz and rock, but a mushrooming that's harder to figure out. Through brilliant use of the recording studio, "In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster" (Rune Grammofon) crisscrosses between acoustic and electric, small band and large band, vocal choir and instruments, a close-miked sound and a distant, reverbed-up one, clanking drums and careful snare-brushing, soft woodwinds and dirty, overdriven synthesizers, quiet and penetratingly loud, live-in-the-studio and and musique concrète.
New York Times (US)
A riotous fusion of free-music collage, found sound, scrambled jazz, electronic frippery, squealing brass, hyper-prog, industrial rock, and all-out sonic overload, it´s an uneasy but hugely rewarding listening from the outset, typified by interstellar musicianship, any number of deft structural twists, and a near-maniacal attention to detail. For all the noodling, nothing on ”In The Kingdom” seems pretentious or contrived, with none of these experiments in sonic audacity outstaying their welcome. Instead, Shining tests your ears but never your patience, making this album seem like some kind of bent-out-of-shape masterpiece. Not just a neat primer for jazzophobes, it´s also the kind of album that makes words seem like useless, redundant means of expression.
To quickly describe Shining´s music is no easy task, but if you like King Crimson, This Heat, Motorpsycho, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Slayer and The Mars Volta, you have plenty to look forward to from Shining. Tracks like ”Goretex Weather Report” and ”Perdurabo” is probably some of the most rocking tracks to be recorded in Norway in quite some time. Complex and demanding, but at the same time extremely groovy, dynamic and driving.
Several instruments and many sound sources give the music dynamic tension, incredible power and several colours. Tender, almost Messiaen-like lapses lead way to what can be described as the soundtrack from hells forecourt. One of the most original and surprising releases in a long time.
The diversity of soundsources is giving birth to a completely new sound without losing the original idea. I had a pleasant encounter with the excellent King Crimson recently, and Shining appear as a possible link between the radiant music of that band and the Nordic improvjazz. This has led to fantastic music and can easily end up as contender for album of the year.
Of course Coltrane and Dolphy can still be detected, but the same goes for the artrock of early King Crimson, just like the atmospheric improvisations from Supersilent. It's much more structured and melodic than their earlier jazzstuff, but that doesn't imply that the music is easier to comprehend. On the contrary, the melodies are often dissonant and unpredictable, the structures never are traditional, the soft-loud dynamics are omnipresent but never where you would expect it. From pure jazz to ambient, via artrock and atonal improv to outrageous Naked City-insanity: it's all there. All the songs are worth mentioning, but the beginning and the end make the strongest impressions. Opening track 'Goretex Weather Report' is the best and most exciting piece of artrock King Crimson never dared to make, and closing track 'You can try the best you can' begins as a beautiful and sensitive atmospheric song filled with intense accordeon and Rhodes sounds, but evolves into heavenly improvnoise. With ”In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster” Shining has made nothing less than a brilliant album.
This is one of those releases that you'll want to sit down with and listen to many, many times in order to hear all the different parts so you can air-drum, air-guitar, and air-whatever to them later. In the course of ten tracks and just about forty minutes, four people cram scores of catchy riffs, some seriously thunderous moments, as well as some nice ambience into a short, but definitely not lacking release. Occasionally mindblowing, and very entertaining
There's plenty of tension, and release, let's say! Just imagine some hotshot jazz guys gone on a dark, cinematic bender, unhealthily obsessed with Carl Stalling cartoon scores and arty prog rock and all possibilities of modern electronics. Your ears will feel fully exercised (and dare we say delighted) after a session with Shining. Very cool.
Comprising a couple of former members of Jagga Jazzist, the quintet offers up all manner of exotic hybrids, including leftfield jazz, rock, heavy metal, melodramatic film soundtracks and invigorating doses of noise. The result is raucous and unpredictable, but far from the messy headache one might suspect from reading such a list of ingredients. From the fluttering clarinet/male choir duet of Romani to the spooked, séance-like otherness of 31=300=20, Shining convince, surprise and don't outstay their welcome for a second.
The key to “In the Kingdom of Kitsch's” success lies in its exploitation of the similarities of the genres it draws upon, rather than the differences. While the hammering power chords that erupt midway through “Goretex Weather Report” come as a surprise at first, they quickly begin to seem like a perfectly acceptable counterpoint to the delicate sax riffing that precedes them. For Shining, such juxtapositions are not “ironic” or used for novelty's sake, but rather reflect the logical outcome of a lifetime spent listening to vastly differing genres of music. Similarly, the album finds its coherence not via the usual means of mood and genre but in a much more musically concrete way, relying on repetition of keys and scales, consistent instrumentation, and similarity among melodic figures to bridge the stylistic gaps. While the loudest moments on “In the Kingdom of Kitsch” are no doubt the most immediately appealing, the subtler pieces are even more striking: the fragile melodic lines that pop up on “Romani” and “You Can Try the Best You Can” seem to struggle to be heard through the cacophony that surrounds them, representative of the traditional structures buried beneath so much postmodern excess. Shining are at their best when they find the right balance between wacky genre-mashing and melodic straightforwardness. On “In the Kingdom of Kitsch” they largely avoid the avant-garde pitfall of overindulgence in conceptual whimsy and dissonant noodling, delivering an album that's accessible enough for jazz neophytes, yet inventive and original enough to appeal to even the most demanding listener.
Dusted Magazine (US)
One has to almost wonder at the mind of Shining's ostensible leader, Jørgen Munkeby. A staggering multi-instrumentalist who plays saxophones, flutes, clarinet, guitar, bass, keyboards and more, Munkeby is responsible for all 10 compositions, which incorporate so many different elements that specific labels are meaningless. There's precious little in the way of straightforward thematic or rhythmic constructs, and there's a distinct edge, even as Shining cover everything from the spacious musings of “You Can Try the Best You Can” to the saxophone and percussion-driven assault of “REDRUM.” While many art rock bands, because surely this is the closest thing to a label that can be applied here, lean towards endless soloing and aimless long-form composition, Shining's ten pieces clock in at a mere 39 minutes, making them concise miniatures that may evoke a variety of emotional responses, but which never overstay their welcome. For those with a broader perspective who are looking to expand their horizons, and who place no artificial boundaries around their music, “In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster” will be a rewarding album, albeit one that generates a lot of upset and discord in between periods of surprising but abstract beauty.
They genuinely sound like they can't agree on a direction, but they hammer out one intriguing accommodation after another.
SF Weekly (US)
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.
The overall feeling I have of this album is one of excellence. “In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster” hints to the music of King Crimson, but also This Heat, The Mars Volta or Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Now that probably got you even more confused. Don't mind these names too much and let this album speak for itself. It is restless and needs time to fully bloom.
That Shining's latest transcends aural schizophrenia should tell you much of what you need to know about the quartet's alchemical approach. Not only does Monster add up to more than just a parade of beard-stroking influences, it actually comes across as something truly foreign, something close to otherworldly. It's not hard to imagine these sounds emanating from one of those discs sent up with a deep-space probe: an almost absurdly wide-ranging sampler that nonetheless reveals some essential identity. To judge by Monster, the world Munkeby & Co. inhabit must be strange and wonderful indeed.
Washington City Paper (US)