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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

Cristina, "Sleep It Off"

Ze
For her 1984 follow-up, Cristina enlisted the production genius of Don Was, who brings to Cristina's vocals a musical backdrop every bit as bizarre and infectious as his own Ze Records project Was (Not Was). Forgoing the extended disco excursions of her debut, Cristina and Was instead created ten radio-ready pop songs, trying to outdo Madonna at her own game, perhaps. Along with originals penned by the singer herself in conjunction with Was, Doug Fieger (of The Kinks) and Robert Palmer (!), Cristina also performs distinctive covers of songs by Van Morrison, Prince and obscure country singer John Conlee. The album features excellent guest contributions from contorted punk saxophonist James Chance and jazz legend Marcus Belgrave. With all this star power, I partially expected Sleep It Off to sound like smooth, competent 1980s new wave pop. Well, it doesn't sound like that at all, but what it does sound like is harder to nail down. Producer Was adds stacks of keyboards and synthesizers, wacky loops and sound effects, creating a densely populated architecture of sound that at times threatens to steal the show from Cristina's vocals. Perhaps in order to cement the Brecht comparison, Cristina and collaborator Ben Brierly perform a gothic-y cover of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil's classic ode to purchased love "Ballad of Immoral Earnings." With some of the tracks recalling the sophisticated disco of her early singles, and some taking utterly bizarre tangents into electro-Country ("She Can't Say That Anymore") and cheesy 1980s pop balladry ("The Lie of Love"), the overall effect of Sleep It Off is pure eclecticism. As such, it never becomes boring, although it does lack a certain focus, which probably explains the public's indifference to the album at the time of its release. The lack of any obvious single normal enough for radio airplay probably also contributed. "Don't Mutilate My Mink" gleefully rips off the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK," for one of the album's funniest, most confrontational tracks. Bonus tracks include horrible session outtakes, a bizarre Christmas song, and a really nifty cover of Prince's classic "When You Were Mine." Sleep It Off is an interesting mess, one I don't think I'll be returning to any time soon, but that I am nonetheless glad has received the deluxe reissue treatment from Ze.

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