Shining
In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster
2005
B+



the term “progressive rock” wasn’t devised to label a stylistic formula, but rather to accommodate a crop of music that stretched formal boundaries, incorporated non-rock textures and elements, fetishized technicality, and produced aesthetic resonances with the slack-jawed transcendence of fantasy and science fiction. Norway’s Shining is willfully nostalgic for a progressivism since become routine, but iterates it as if we didn’t get it in the first place. In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster doesn’t carry music in any new directions per se, but it’s a record of fetching synthesis and textural revision, blending the sound of early free jazz, 70’s English progressive rock, film music, and classical flourishes in a framework of post-industrial digital decay. If prog-rock and the onset of free jazz imagined new horizons and alternate universes (both musics bear potent mythologies of interstellar promise), Shining’s haunted cacophony of heavily processed guitars, decaying synthesizers, digital ghosts and noisy beats acts as a post-mortem.

Their jazz chops are impressive, but conservative, stopping short of the genre’s most extreme explorations; their blistering rock riffage exists comfortably before the democratizing reductionism of punk and the unbridled expressivity of No Wave. Instead, it’s old-fashioned dexterous bombast, headbanging with caution and poise enough to harness wild arpeggios, but never letting a pedigree get in the way of impassioned squawking and battering.

The Dystopia would seem like an appropriate concept to invoke, like The Matrix without any of the 21st century wild-westism, a fantasy without heroes, whose comparable deities are remorseless CGI octopods tromping around an automated wasteland. This is the new territory; it darkens the liberating impulse of its forbearers, recasts the sound as struggle instead of hopeful imagination, salvaging shreds of vitality in distorted requiems that soar over the clattering violence.

Though there’s plenty of brutal, taut music to be found on the record, more often than not, it’s filmic, evocative, and remarkably organic. Noxious aural steam emanates from endless contortions of pipes; passages cul-de-sac in the lonely human refuges of a saxophone refrain or phantom moans, but never with a safe enough distance from the crawling of sine waves and static to get truly comfortable, occasionally reaching a chilling grandeur that suggests an Ennio Morricone score of Blade Runner. There’s a composure to the music that weathers the flurry of its aggressions, and a luscious, discordant eeriness that seeps through the slick dazzle of its dynamics.

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.


Reviewed by: Mike Powell
Reviewed on: 2005-03-22
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