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Format: do-LP + CD
Label & Cat.Number: Smalltown Supersound STS282LP
Release Year: 2016
Note: the 13th album by the famous Norwegian impro-band, connecting free jazz-avantgarde, amorph ambient and a-rhythmic noise in a unique way, between rude- and subtleness...the line-up for these recordings was: HELGE STEN (DEATHPROD), ARVE HENRIKSEN, STALE STORLOKKEN; "That's the fascination and the frustration of Supersilent: it's like they keep destroying the lineaments of form just for the pleasure of vouchsafing them to us again." [Pitchfork]
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"You can’t accuse Supersilent of keeping the noise down. Ever since the Big Crunch of 1997, when Norway’s finest free music outfit came together for the first time, their unpredictable noises and rapturous textures have been heard all around the world – and maybe somewhere outside the stratosphere too.

Currently a trio featuring Helge Sten, Arve Henriksen and Ståle Storløkken, Supersilent ’s album number 13 marks a turning point in the group’s two-decade career. After a dozen recordings under the umbrella of the diverse Rune Grammofon label, Supersilent have now signed to Oslo based Smalltown Supersound, where they join the likes of Lindstrøm, DJ Harvey, Prins Thomas and Andre Bratten as labelmates.

Supersilent is a platform for a highly physical improvised electronic music, made by a trio that’s a kind of supergroup of Norwegian players in their own right. Arve Henriksen’s hypnotic trumpet has been heard with everyone from David Sylvian and Laurie Anderson to Jan Bang and the ice music of Terje Isungset, as well as releasing a string of acclaimed solo albums on Rune Grammofon. Keyboardist Ståle Storløkken has worked with Motorpsycho, Elephant9, Terje Rypdal, and the Humcrush duo with Sidsel Endresen. Helge Sten uses a complex array of homemade electronics, samplers, sound processing and analogue effects – cumulatively known as the ‘Audio Virus’ – in his solo ambient music as Deathprod, as well as having worked with Motorpsycho and producing artists like Susanna.

Supersilent was born when Sten injected the audio virus into a pre-existing late 90s free jazz group called Veslefrekk. Originally featuring drummer Jarle Vespestad, Supersilent slimmed to an electronic three-piece core in 2009, with all three often handling their respective instruments as if they were percussion, stabbing buttons and keys in real time. Recently Supersilent threw the legendary Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones into the mix for a series of improvised concerts and recordings.

Most of 13’s nine tracks were taped in an Oslo studio at the end of 2014. The band record everything live, while blasting their sound through a PA system, so that they can feel the physical air moving as if they were on stage. Tracks 1 and 5 date from 2009, immediately after their drummer’s exit. ‘They were tryout sessions to see how we should proceed,’ says Helge. ‘It was a kind of research for the band to feel how is to be three, not four, and to blow off some steam.’

All of Supersilent’s music is entirely unplanned, with all three experienced musical adventurers throwing themselves into the moment and riding the emerging maelstrom. They always manage to surprise you, whether it’s the Indonesian ritual music heard from a Scandinavian mountaintop on the opening track ‘13.1’, to the demonic organ blasts at the end of ‘13.5’; or from haunting, pastoral atmosphere pieces (‘13.6’) to all-out splatter-improv (‘13.7’) and the compressed digital labyrinths of 13.9.

The trio swap instruments with abandon: percussion, trumpet and woodwind, electronics and Storløkken’s collectable assortment of vintage keyboards. In this technologised environment, sounds are passed around, distorted and spat out again in tantalising splurges. ‘It takes time to shape a band from the beginning,’ says Helge, ‘but for us now the trio is working really well’.

With Supersilent’s lucky 13, now you can be the judge of that."


"With 13 albums under their belt, the Norwegian experimentalists continue to haunt the dark, underexplored basements of electro-improvisational music.

Supersilent's music exists beyond any normal human activity, any comprehensible emotion. It's hard to imagine partying, housecleaning, or commuting with it, as its screeches, melted horn riffs, and creep-show keyboards bombard the edge of reason. Its rhythms hint at continuity and then peel off in whatever direction, perversely arbitrary, shunting the flow. Imagine straining to hear a rustling through the keyhole of a door that might burst open to unleash a terrible racket at any moment—that's 13. When you listen to it, you can't really do anything but listen to it. That's an advantage if you consider it as a sign of vividness, but perhaps a limitation if you think about how often you sit by yourself and do nothing but listen intently to music.

The precise numbering of Supersilent's recordings almost humorously belies their spontaneous nature—every album is improvised. On 13, the trio moves from Rune Grammofon to Oslo's other leading electronic jazz label, Smalltown Supersound, but the sequence and the style are unbroken. The group's distant roots are in free jazz, which they still stitch into abstract patchworks of ambient music and arrhythmic noise. Roughly, Arve Henriksen coaxes strange tones from trumpets and woodwinds; Ståle Storløkken pounds vintage keyboards; and Helge Sten, who also makes dark ambient music as Deathprod, at once encases and engages the improvisations with rich electro-acoustic atmospheres. 13 was performed over a PA system in a shared space, and it benefits from a sense of presence even at its most daunting.

Though Supersilent has gone without a drummer since 2009, they remain a highly percussive outfit because of the pops and crackles of the electronics and the extended techniques used by the players. 13's opening track is described as "Indonesian ritual music heard from a Scandinavian mountaintop," but you couldn't be blamed for imagining a rhythm section falling down the stairs into a basement full of broken computers instead. "13.1" lands on just the right side of the line between exploring and getting lost. Not every track does. These improvisers are good enough to bend something as unruly as "13.3" into an arc, but it's still a gruelingly disjunctive go at it. And on the bumptious "13.5," we remember, as we wholly forget during the most captivating passages, that this is essentially just some dudes getting together and jamming.

Luckily, "13.5" is followed by one those velvety, far-off, lyrical trumpet solos familiar from Henriksen's wonderful solo albums, and there are other songs like it here—smaller, shorter, and more subtle. Not a one is unwelcome. Aptly for such extreme music, 13 is most potent when Supersilent either goes inward, as on "13.6," or goes all out, staying well clear of the noncommittal region in between. "13.7" might take this dictum a tad far; a screaming fireball that takes six minutes to strike spends six more wreaking almost unlistenable havoc. "13.9" is just as big and twice as perfect, rewarding anyone who's made it to the end with a cool-toned, hard-won, and not at all unnecessary refresher course on what music is and why people like it. That's the fascination and the frustration of Supersilent: it's like they keep destroying the lineaments of form just for the pleasure of vouchsafing them to us again." [Pitchfork]