Various Artists Twenty Centuries of Stony Sleep Review

Compilation. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Rune Grammofon’s 100th release marks 12 years of captivating sonic exploration.

Spencer Grady 2010

Founded in 1998, Rune Kristoffersen’s imprint has gone on to forge a distinct identity for itself while navigating beyond initial perceptions that this was simply another electro-acoustic label catering for a decidedly niche demographic. Unified by Kim Hiorthøy’s minimalist designs, which appear on the majority of the label’s output, along with an incestuous approach to band membership, Rune Grammofon has subsequently opened its arms to embrace a swathe of fresh flavours, including progressive rock, E.S.T.-influenced jazz and heart-melting torch songs.

All these tropes are covered by Twenty Centuries of Stony Sleep, a compilation brimming with beauty and invention. That two of the most powerful pieces here are served up by an old stalwart and one of the label’s latest finds is surely testament to Rune Grammofon’s continuing state of rude health. Supersilent, who contributed the label’s very first release (a triple CD, no less), contort icy vaporous eddies that echo the gradual capitulation of an arctic vista as Tove Jansson’s Moomins watch on aghast, Arve Henriken’s horn-playing sombre and elegant throughout. Meanwhile, newcomer Jenny Hval, who supplies the only non-exclusive track here, conjures a folky brew stew of otherworldly melodrama, equal parts Vashti Bunyan, Baby Dee and Fovea Hex, that will surely appeal to those already in love with the work of the label’s other chanteuses, Hilde Marie Kjersem (who also contributes here) and Susanna (both with and without her Magical Orchestra).

But Twenty Centuries is full of extraordinary moments proffering a tonic for weary ears, though some may baulk at the feral vocal exhortations of Maja Ratkje and Alog’s opening garbled blast, My Card is 7. These two inclusions aside, this set displays a discernible serenity, an approach documented in the delicious ivory filigrees of the Espen Eriksen Trio, whose Ambitions comes over like Tord Gustavsen with a touch less reserve and a tad more soul. And then there’s In the Country, who opt for a rare foray into song with Slow Down, a portrayal of a doomed relationship played out to a gorgeous mix of ivory, bass rumble and lightly dusted cymbal chime.

Rune Grammofon: 12 years on and going stronger than ever. Happy birthday, Herr Kristoffersen.

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