Shining – Grindstone

July 9, 2007

Shining - GrindstoneI feel the need to write about this album for one simple reason: It’s being ignored.

Pitchfork gave the previous Shining album In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster an 8.3 and a “Best New Music” mention. They gave this one 7.6 and not even a “Recommended.” Other sites have followed suit in giving this Shining album a slightly lower rating than the last one. And the reason is clear: The last album was kinda weird, a hybrid of jazz, metal, post-rock, synthesizers, classical, prog rock, etc. It was a mess, although a very creative mess. But this new album is MESSIER: Bigger, louder, more structureless, less like jazz rock and more like prog rock in every sense of the word. You know, the good senses, like creativity, even brilliance; and the bad senses, like unbelievable pretension. To your average Pitchfork or blogosphere reader, the last album was a very weird bit of instrumental rock from an unheard-of band that is fun to name-check. You can keep it in your iTunes and feel superior. But this new album is SO weird that you actually have to LIKE the music. Shit. Besides, if you wanna name-check a progressive rock band, Battles are so much sexier right now.

The truth is this album is the most brilliant, original music I’ve heard this year. It is the unambiguously better album, both when compared to their previous album, and when compared to that new Battles LP. Perhaps the best reason why is the first track, which has the same name as their Kingdom of Kitsch album. It is so high-energy, so intense… And it just keeps piling on the hooks and adding new sections until you are blown away by the shear visceral pull of the song. It’s one of the most incredible moments in music of the year, sounding somewhat like the Boredoms playing with Fugazi.

The next two tracks keep up that energy, but are wisely peppered with a few moments where the music slows and the noises are quieter (track 3 includes a Bach harpsichord bit). These are contrasted with giant climaxes built on top of huge chugging riffs in the bass and squealing varied instrumentation up high. The music is indescribable, really.

The album is split neatly into three sections, because there are two tracks, spaced through the album, which are moments of near-silence with beautiful tinkling bells. The second section of the album is clearly the weirdest (and the weakest, although it remains consistently interesting). “Moonchild Mindgames” is essentially the sound of a horn and piano combo, while “The Red Room” is the jazziest metal (with saxophones! er, I think) you will ever hear. “Asa Nisis Masa” has some vocals that sound like humans trying to howl like wolves, and others that are heavily filtered. It’s easy to list weirdnesses like this, but I want to mention here that that’s not because the album is unfeeling: On the contrary, every song brings out specific emotional responses. The weirdness is just a necessary component to make you feel different emotions than you usually do. That’s why the music isn’t comfortable, but also why it’s great.

“Psalm” is another absolutely perfect musical moment on this album at the beginning of the third section. It begins so minimally and quietly, but it just keeps building. Two minutes in, a drum starts, and the music just grows, with mechanical and organic sounds all mixed in: beeps and boops and tense static set against the human voice and a chugging bass. At around 4:45, it breaks down, and sounds defeated and dead, barely managing to get out of the static. But by 5:10, it explodes and then KEEPS BUILDING, breaks down again, comes back EVEN BIGGER. It’s incredible.

It’s followed by an accelerating Bach solo played on a synthesizer. In case you were starting to take music seriously. I have to mention the Boredoms again, as this is music about immaturity and making noise for fun. It’s music to make you smile, and to make you think about Art and giggle. It’s Dada. It makes me say pretentious things like this and then laughs at me for it. Damn it.

“1-4-9” appears to be free improvisation with synths and everything else they could find. It creates a dense, strangely cave-like atmosphere, building into the riffs of the finale “Fight Dusk with Dawn”, where the fusion of rock, jazz, and artistic breakdown WTF moments could not be better. The emotions here are real and powerful, but so is the sense that emotions are ephemeral. It’s quite the mindfuck and definitely required listening.

9.2/10

MP3: Shining – In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster
MP3: Shining – Psalm

posted by nerdbound

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One Response to “Shining – Grindstone”

  1. Mark Vaughan Says:

    Could you maybe get in contact with me, I am Shinings manager – mark@ufa.no


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