Supersilent: 8 (2007)
While many musicians eschew liner notes, preferring to let the music speak for itself, Norwegian noise improv group Supersilent has always taken that philosophy a step further. The names of the band members aren't listed; album titles are only in increasing numerical increments; and the collective spontaneous compositions are simply titled with the album and track (e.g. 1.1, 1.2). The covers of its previous Rune Grammofon releases1-3 (1997), 4 (1998), 5 (2001), 6 (2003) and the DVD 7 (2005)have been simple, single colors, with only the most basic release information in a simple white font. If it weren't for the unofficial Supersilent website (the group has neither a website nor MySpace page), the anonymity of the group would be nearly complete.
While the members of Supersilent have busy careers outside the groupmost notably Arve Henriksen, whose ubiquity on the Scandinavian scene is nearly unrivaledwhen they come together as Supersilent the premise is simple: no discussion, no preplanning, no rehearsals. All the more remarkable then, that the music of 8, as with past releases, feels both in-the-moment and preconceived. The term "noise improv" might frighten away someand there are some harsh extremes to be certain. Still, there's often surprising beauty, gentility even. There's a reason why the word "silent" is part of the group's name; as dense as the music can get, there's also a less-is-more aesthetic allowing the overriding arc of any Supersilent album the opportunity to breathe. 8 may well be Supersilent's most accessible album to date, although that doesn't suggest a relaxing of its core concept or its pursuit of unknown textures and musical landscapes.
Largely electronic-based, there remain elements of near-classicism, especially on the brooding opening to the eleven-minute "8.1," whose seeming stasis at any given point belies a more patient and gradual build towards its more aggressive and pulsing conclusion. "8.2" is sparer still, with cymbals and bells bolstering a Zawinul-esque synth melody, later joined by rumbling electronics. The staggered rhythms of "8.3" seem at odds with each other, with Jarle Vespestad's thundering tom-toms all the more surprising when one considers his near-whisper playing with pianist Tord Gustavsen's trio on ECM.
"8.4" may be abstract, but it's also some of Supersilent's most beautiful music to date. Henriksen's shakuhachi-toned trumpet and a wash of heavily reverbed string synths are remarkable for the feeling of composition in the face of clear knowledge that this is music that hasn't been played before, and will never be played again.
With the amount of technology involved, outside of Henriksen's distinctive trumpet and voice and, occasionally, Helge Sten's intense guitar, it's often impossible to know who is doing what; with Henriksen also playing drums, even Vespestad's role is not always clear. But that's the whole point of Supersilent: music to be assessed purely on its own merits, absent of the markers that normally reveal a link between the music and the people who make it.
Track Listing: 8.1; 8.2; 8.3; 8.4; 8.5; 8.6; 8.7; 8.8.
Personnel: Arve Henriksen: trumpet, electronics, voice, drums; Helge Sten: audio virus, electronics, guitars, keyboards; Ståle Storløkken: keyboards, synthesizers, electronics; Jarle Vespestad: drums.