The collisions between the purely acoustic sphere of traditional jazz (okay, throw in a few amplified instruments) and the amorphous universe of electronica have yielded a virtual zoo of hybrid offspring. One major flaw that marks most of these products is that they end up produced to death. That's the price you pay for having too many gadgets in the studio and not enough imagination to create something special through performance itself. Imagination and spontaneity are a rare combination indeed.
The Norwegian quartet known as Supersilent has covered a range of music at the junction between improv and electronica since their inception in 1997, from harsh noise to ambient soundscapes. Their fourth release (known as 6 for reasons not worth elaborating here) is an intelligent work of quiet, brooding drama. All analog here.
At times this music sounds purely cinematic, as on "6.3," with its delicate bell-like wisps floating in and out of keyboard patterns that imply harmony yet rarely exit the realm of dissonance. The corresponding film would be suspenseful and deliberate, something like a murder mystery set in a midnight snowstorm. Somewhere in the middle of this movie, a full moon breaks out and the entire city is bathed in a translucent glow. Sparks fly, black birds alight, then the clouds drift back together again. This is definitely not folk music. The fact that it's nearly impossible to distinguish the four voices much of the time says something about the synergy they achieve. (The package does not even provide musicians' names. I guess that means they are Supersilent.)
Two things about 6 deserve special note. One is that the entire thing is improvised. There are no studio overdubs here, none of the heavy-handed production that festers on so much of today's electro-jazz music. The second is that while the record as a whole is quiet, that doesn't mean it lacks moments of sheer intensity. Dynamics come in many forms. The sonorities these musicians explore are abstract and twisted, yet entirely accessible to an openminded listener. At times, when drummer Jarle Vespestad takes more of an active timekeeping role (as on parts of "6.4"), the music resembles the post-rock soundscapes of Tortoise. But those moments can be fleeting. Resemblances are not something Supersilent prefers to cultivate, it seems.
One final piece of information, relevant to Norway's burgeoning experimental music scene and its spillover around the world. This group's first recording was the first release on the Rune Grammofon label, rapidly becoming recognized (through 30 releases to date) for exactly the kind of intelligent genre-bending Supersilent represents.