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Supersilent, "9"

cover   imageFinding themselves a drummer down for their ninth release, Supersilent have this time approached their music from a completely different angle. Dispensing with their usual instrumentation, the remaining members have instead utilized Hammond organ exclusively for these four pieces. While the end result sounds nothing like their previous work, this is a thrilling and captivating album that is an unusual entry into an already curious catalogue. The music is cosmic, sacred and psychedelic in ways that have not previously been delved into by the group.

 

Rune Grammofon

Supersilent - Supersilent 9

As ever, Supersilent did not plan what they were going to do for this album before entering the studio. The results clearly reflect this approach to music production, the variation in playing style throughout 9 runs from the staid and minimal end of the spectrum to the wilder edge of improvisation. The four pieces here explore limits of the mighty Hammond organ, the music often sounding distinctly unlike the familiar tones of the Hammond. The opening piece begins with a sparse and largely silent introduction before some tremulous melody lines are played. The music slides out of earshot again, an enigmatic and haunting beginning to the album.

The mood here is very different to what would normally be expected of the Supersilent crew, although occasionally they fall into the type of anti-rhythms that permeate their work. For example, the second piece on 9 begins on a similar path as the opening piece of their last album. However, this path has become overgrown and dangerous since we last walked down it; the sinister horror movie character of the Hammond coming through strongly. This is especially true later in the piece when the organ sounds more like some kind of man-eating theremin/guitar hybrid.

The remainder of the album is given over to more ambient-inclined pieces, which is a little disappointing as I would have enjoyed another “busy” piece or two. Listening to these pieces on their own merit as opposed to part of an album (albums being an unnatural environment for Supersilent’s music based on their working method), their true worth becomes evident. The devil is in the detail and devoting one’s attention fully to the textures within the music reveals the luxuriant and multifaceted tone of the Hammond organ.

I wonder whether Supersilent will now continue without Jarle Vespestad on drums, find a replacement drummer or, Darwin forbid, remain super silent. That last option is too horrible to consider but equally I imagine it would be hard to find someone who could fill the void on the drum stool. As good as this album is, I cannot see them repeating it either in terms of instrumentation or in terms of mood. However, hopefully this shake up to the band’s dynamics will spur them on to further experiment with their already fluid sound. And should this be the last we hear from Supersilent, it is a worthy end to a stunning string of releases.

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Andreas Martin

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Review of the Day

Biosphere, "Autour de la Lune"
Touch
Geir Jenssen lives in a different world. From his Artic Circle perch the man called Biosphere is building a body of work as iconoclastic as Aphex Twin, with as much eerie remove and accidental influence. Albums like Patashnik and Substrata are landmarks in ambient music not because they spawned a million rip-offs but because they work within a recognizable stylistic blueprint to create absolutely alien music, threatening total immersion to even the most cautious of "background" listeners. Jenssen's last, 2002's Shenzhou found him treading further towards alienating extremes, something like a pitch-black homage to Debussy, with orchestra samples stretched thin and opaque across an ocean of icy, crevice-filled ambience (in other words, what we all wished Drukqs had been). Autour, commissioned by French radio last year, not only rejects anything close to a wide "radio" audience, but it is by far the most trying Biosphere release thus far, with Jenssen moving past the beat-less transparencies begun with Substrata and into a harsh meditation on deep-space, a 74-minute confined drift that begins well into the air-less upper regions and does not conclude until positioned hopelessly within a dimensionless dump-off on the darker side of some heavenly body. Occupying a third of the disc's length, the opening "Translation" acts like the final kiss-off to Earth and the earthen sounds that often find a place in Biosphere music. A rebus of plastic tones, entwined with enough care to erase all human touch, becomes a sky-like ceiling with which groaning engine sounds and whining drones struggle in a pitiless slipping, past the threshold and into the heart of Autour. Apart from a track or two based around a few distorted samples from a 60s radio dramatization of Jules Verne's De la Terre à la Lune (the "focus" of the 2003 commission) and actual recordings of MIR astronauts, the majority of the disc develops a vacuous, unsettling atmosphere made up of seriously subsonic bass frequencies and shrill, synthetic tones dividing and encasing the deliberate arcs and hidden textures of each of the nine "movements." By the sixth track, "Circulaire," the trip has arrived at a false ending of sorts, an off-putting climax where the piece grounds out to two dissenting sounds, one a near-inaudible below-bass pulse and the other the sinister calm of a solid flatline. From this remote place, more Onkyo than Eno, Jenssen really has nowhere to drift except slowly back towards the beginning, to the lush plasticities of "Trombant," almost coming full circle on the opening track but stopping short, allowing melody and lush texture enough footing only to remind us of what has been left behind. Melodies emerge, like the aimless cosmonaut voice samples, as if beamed from a great distance, light years into the black, like ghosts of a human presence long since abandoned. Autour is not easy listening, and if it doesn't stand as the most returnable place in the Biosphere catalog, it's only because Jenssen has never sounded so remote and thoroughly haunting.

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