Norway’s premier electro-acoustic titans are back on track.
Spencer Grady 2010
When drummer Jarle Vespestad left Supersilent early in 2009 after 12 years with the Norwegian troupe, the remaining members’ initial attempts to find their feet floundered. The subsequent long-player, live recording Supersilent 9, saw the trio of Arve Henriksen, Helge Sten (aka Deathprod) and Ståle Storløkken take refuge in a furtherance of their hive mind mentality, an egalitarian gesture whereby all personnel opted to perform on Hammond organ with the intention of forging a clean break from the past. What emerged was predominantly a stultifying stupor of homogenous, directionless burble, suffering from a paucity of invention that had never before impinged on the group’s work.
Thank heavens, then, that 10 sees Supersilent opt for the other pole. While not exactly a bravura display of individual grandstanding, it’s still hard to think of another time when each of these player’s particular voices has been so audibly defined, rising above the cooperative clamour for a turn in the spotlight. The early pieces here showcase Storløkken’s craft on the grand piano, his sparse clusters and jarring stabs highly reminiscent of composers like Anton Webern, Morton Feldman and Giacinto Scelsi. When combined with the earthy, breathy, unpolished timbre of Henriksen’s trumpet – which more often approximates a woodland flute – the effect is like passing through a beam of sunlight penetrating a dense forest canopy, with just the merest suggestion of primal menace, a throwback to pagan times when trees were cast as sentries to dark magical realms. But it’s arguably Sten who puts in the finest performance. His wistful guitar playing on 10.6 conjures memories of Vini Reilly’s pirouetting curlicues on The Durutti Column’s Sketch for Summer, if it were operating on a glacial schedule.
For the most part, 10 displays all the tenderness and sanguinity of previous Supersilent masterpieces such as 4 and 6, and it’s when mining these calmer seams that they uncover the most gold. But, just in case you’re hankering for some of the billowing sections that made 8 such a beast of bombast, Sten is on hand once more to infiltrate the serenity with his "audio virus", ushering old daemons into the steadied pools of tranquillity, spluttering geysers of ruptured electronic spume.