Twenty Centuries of Stony Sleep reviews (in English and Norwegian)

Boomkat 2010: “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.”

The Wire 2010: “For their 100th release, Rune Grammofon commissioned 13 original pieces from their roster to display the label´s unerring ability to present a diverse range of approaches while maintaining a firm grip on its aesthetic. Even at its most abstract, it errs towards clarity and hygiene in both its sonics and visuals. The strenght of Rune Kristoffersen´s vision is such that, even when one finds little of interest in an artist, there´s little doubt they belong on the label… Ultralyd´s “Salinity and Brine” showcases their increasing maturity with hushed harmonics, opaque drones and the intermittent rumble and clatter of percussion; Bushman´s Revenge follow up their recent album with “Barbara”, a shot of soulful R&B reminiscent of Bill Frisell´s soundtrack work and recent Earth on 45 rpm. The Rune Grammofon mainstays also aquit themselves brilliantly. Deathprod´s “Mysterium Magnum” is typically impressive, its howling sonics gathering like stormclouds on the horizon, rapidly drawing closer and then rushing overhead. Similarly forbidding is Maja Ratkje´s “Breathe”, its foghorn-like bass bursts countered with a menagerie of purrs, groans, clicks and croaks. Finally, Supersilent´s Zawinul-flavoured “C-7.1″ rounds off the collection on a downbeat note that nevertheless speaks volumes for the continued health of the outfit and their label.”

The Jazz Mann: “The Rune Grammofon label marks the milestone of its hundredth release with a single-CD sampler of (mostly) exclusive tracks from artists currently on its roster and a mini-bonanza of archival Supersilent material. The sampler is titled, in run(e)ic fashion, “Twenty Centuries of Stony Sleep”, which you will doubtless recognise as a line from William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming: “twenty centuries of stony sleep / Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle”, which I suppose sums up the Rune Grammofon house style pretty well, since most of its artists create music that can be downright disquieting, and yet is often subtle enough to lull. The artists represented are Alog, The Low Frequency In Stereo, Ultralyd, Espen Eriksen Trio, In The Country, Bushman’s Revenge, Hilde Marie Kjersem, Stian Westerhus, Maja Ratkje, Jenny Hval, Puma, Deathprod, and Supersilent. In the fertile cross-currents that keep the distances between these artists in flux, any notional categorization is effectively dissolved. It’s a strong, coherent collection, and considerably superior to the average label sampler. Of course, it’s by no means comprehensive. A new signing, guitarist Stian Westerhaus, is represented both solo and as a member of the trio Puma, while one of my favourite Rune Grammofon acts, Scorch Trio, are not represented. But the album is, more importantly, a satisfyingly balanced listening experience. For every prejudice confirmed (yes, I could do without the thoroughly inoffensive rock-lite of Bushman’s Revenge) there is a reminder to check out something unaccountably neglected (on my part, for instance, the supremely, rigorously eccentric vocalizations of Maja Ratkje) or an introduction to something wonderful (the sublime trio of Espen Eriksen, perhaps, for the jazz aficionado).” (Tim Owen)

All About Jazz: “Singer Maja Ratkje, whose Veljo Tormis remix was a high point of Punkt 2010, eschews any and all predictability with “Breathe””

Aftenposten: “6/6. Det oppleves som et paradoks at Rune Grammofon har rukekt å bli hele tolv år og jubilerer med utgivelse nummer 100. Er det noe jeg ikke forbinder med dette plateselskapet, så er det aldringsprosess og muskelsvinn. Med en så skarå profil og et særdeles godt grep om interessante strømninger fremstår det i fornyet lys med stadig glødende utgivelser. (…) Rune har tatt innover seg det de fleste musikere hevder. De er svært lite opptatt av genre. Den poetiske kraften og den rå nakenheten gjenfinnes like gjerne i det akustiske som i lyden fra Maja Ratkjes stemme og elektroniske utstyrspark. (…)” (Arild R. Andersen)

Read more reviews at Rune Grammofon’s site.

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