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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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Review of the Day

Elixir, "Don't Be Scared"
Quatermass
Here is another electronic, beat-based album that plays the game of "I love it/I hate it." The atmosphere is mostly dark, the beats thick and chugging, and the melodies somehow buried inside walls of static noise and time-warped samples. There's the first problem: sometimes the melodies never get a chance to come out and play. As a result, I'm left listening to a somewhat boring, somewhat repetitive drum track that doesn't have the power to carry the song by itself. Unfortunately, the album is produced in such a way that each song inevitably has some incredible sounds on it but they're completely attenuated by the way they're thrown into the backgroud and lost beneath a plethora of effects. But then, amazingly, all that wishy-washy noise comes together for a few brief moments and gives birth to an explosion that comes close to relieving the tension and weariness of the first few minutes of the song. This is how "Flesh Wound" opens up the album and it segues into the infinitely more entertaining "Gargantuan." I imagine one of those dolls that has a slinky for a neck bopping around to this rubbery and dynamic wall of beats only to have a stick of dynamite send it into the great beyond. "Gargantuan" has nearly the same production style as "Flesh Wound," but manages to pull it off by allowing the repeating drum and melody patterns to weave a bit more intricate and diverse body of sound. "Boiled In Blood" is a bit more low-key than anything else on the album and it provides a nice break from the havoc of the first two tracks. It unfortunately gives way to more standard four-on-the-floor dance music that sounds horribly distorted and only covers up what seems to be the most interesting elements dying in the background. And so this process continues throughout the duration of Don't Be Scared. I either love it or I hate it. Not much changes in terms of production: it's all pretty muddy and eventually this makes the entire album feel far too homogenous. The formula either works for some of the songs or it doesn't. This up and down experience ends up making the whole album feel dull; it's just hard to sit down and listen to the whole thing all the way through.

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