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various / rune grammofon - Twenty Centuries of Stony Sleep
This new compilation on Rune Grammofon marks the Norwegian label's 100th release. Now twelve years into its lifespan, this esteemed and most un-pigeonhole-able of imprints celebrates with a collection of thirteen exclusive tracks by long-standing Rune Grammofon favourites such as Deathprod, Supersilent, Alog, Ultralyd and Maja Ratkje, plus a few newer additions to the fold - the most recent being Jenny Hval. In the release notes, it's pointed out that many of the works submitted for the release were characterised by a coincidentally harmonious mood of quietness, something that really helped gel the sequence as if it were a "real" album. It's certainly true that some of the finest moments here are fairly low-key and unassuming, but the tracklist gets off to a bang with Alog's distortion-caked, punk-ish dirge 'My Card Is 7'. After this you'll come across the sprightly prog-jazz fusions of The Low Frequency In Stereo, the graceful songcraft of Hilde Marie Kjersem and the extreme guitar manhandling of Stian Westerhus, to name but three notable contributions. Some of the most exciting material arrives from the old guard however, in particular Ultralyd's shimmering noir soundtracks on 'Salinity And Brine' and Maja Ratkje's 'Breathe', which features some of her signature atavistic vocal contortions set amidst a layered soundscape populated by opaque environmental recordings and howling drone tones. The collection closes with two more standouts from reliable sources: Deathprod and Supersilent. The former conjures up a fiendish amount of low-end turbulence during 'Mysterium Magnum', reminding you just how far ahead of the dark-ambient pack his fathomless productions have always been. Finally, Deathprod joins his Supersilent bandmates for 'c-7.1', capturing one of the enigmatic improv band's closer run-ins with a conventional jazz language, as led by Arve Henriksen's lyrical trumpet work. Highly recommended.