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Shining - In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster

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Artist: Shining

Album: In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster

Label: Rune Grammofon

Review date: Jun. 8, 2005

Shining, helmed by former Jaga Jazzist member Jørgen Munkeby, is the sort of group that renders music-journalism clichés utterly impotent: no matter how many genre names and adjectives one strings together, it’s nearly impossible to find an adequate way of describing their music. It’s doubtful that In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster, their debut on Rune Grammofon, will ever be filed in the rock section, but it wouldn’t fit too comfortably under jazz, either: in this Kingdom, King Crimson-inspired metal and traditionalist bebop peacefully coexist.

Munkeby and Co. show no hesitation in mixing together all the sounds in their heads, and are surprisingly unselfconscious about doing so. Contrary to what one might expect, the band’s absurd-in-theory transitions - whether it be from serpentine soprano sax solos to bombastic blasts of industrial noise, or from theremin-haunted sci-fi melodies to hip-hop beatboxing - rarely feel gratuitous or pretentious. While their novelty certainly adds more than a little to their appeal, Shining are a remarkably straightforward and gimmick-free group.

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 Kitch 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.

By Michael Cramer

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