Posted on Jan 13th 2011 01:04 am
JONO EL GRANDE
Rune Grammofon 2010
11 Tracks. 38mins51secs
Rune Grammofon have made a habit of pushing boundaries in various directions throughout their releases, but it is difficult to know even where or what the boundaries are when it comes to iconoclast prankster Jono El Grande. He sits at odds with the rest of the label’s catalogue. Born Jon Andreas Håtun somewhere in Norway in 1973, this self-taught musician’s first foray into the recording industry came in 1999 with his first album, Utopian Dances, recorded in his bedroom with nothing more than a workstation synth, but things went up a few notches with his Rune Grammofon debut, Fevergreens, published in 2003. Part Christmas Pantomime music, part seventies soft porn soundtrack, part jazz/rock experiment gone wrong, the album, recorded with a nine piece orchestra, managed to be at once cheesy and über cool. Neo Dada, published six years later, paid an even more open tribute to Zappa than its predecessor by turning it into a prog rock experiment, tinted with orchestral motifs and occasional Latin touches.
Now celebrating fifteen years as a performer and ten years of El Grandiose ensemble, in its various incarnations, Håtun has assembled a collection of live favourites, reworkings of old tracks and previously unreleased material, and even the odd new track or two, all newly recorded. As on Neo Dada, the prog rock influences weight quite heavily on the whole album, right from the onset of the short and (not) sweet Borrelia Boggie, pressing on to Utopia Semi-Waltz, Phantom Stimulance, Beggar To Beggar and all the way down to The Goat with barely a moment to breathe in between. At just under forty minutes, this album is quite an exhausting affair. There is the occasional gentler track (Rise Of The Baseless Press-Base Toy) or the exhilarating materialisation of a sustained melody (Pongery In Evention (As In Owe Egon’s Dreams), The Goat), but there are, on each track, so many ideas crammed into just a few minutes that it is almost impossible to follow without getting left behind at one corner or another. How the band members manage to find their way though this gigantic chaos is anyone’s guess. But it is also a testament of the musicianship on display. As fast as the themes comes and go, as hectic as the orchestrations are, it all still somehow makes sense, even if a few listens might be necessary for things to fall into place.
Very much like its predecessors, Phantom Stimulance is an immensely fun and imaginative record. It also acts as an overview of the last fifteen years, be it one that regurgitate old pieces with new attires. Ultimately, this album, while not quite as exquisite and uplifting as Fevergreens or as daring as Neo Dada, remains the perfect antidote to the misery of long wintery nights and cold and wet weather, and should be made available on any self-respecting state health care system.