Anyone who has got to know Supersilent via one of their first releases and then lost track of them for a while, will have trouble recognising many of the characteristics that made this avant-jazz combo based in Norway so great, on this tenth release (baptised “10”, as is the tradition). There is a good reason for it, as the band’s drummer, Jale Vespestad, abandoned ship after the release of “8”, three years ago. It was a pretty hard blow, as it was Vespestad’s elegant rhythmic play that allowed his bandmates (trumpet player Arve Henriksen, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken and electronic magician Helge Sten) to unleash all kinds of violence, sometimes physical, and almost always mental, on the unsuspecting listener.
In order to overcome such a loss the band has been forced to reconsider their future; a future in which the substituting Vespestad was never an option, not only because of how hard it would be to find someone as versatile, but also because of the particular way of working Supersilent have, going into the recording studio without any preparation and trusting in the complicity between the musicians. It was rather about investigating new possibilities, finding new ways where the rhythmic background isn’t as important. On their previous album “9”, released last year, they dealt with this through reductionism, using various Hammond organs as the sole source of sound to elaborate within a record that was pure introspection, but that could barely go beyond its condition as an interim artefact.
Much more varied in the chromatic, albeit not much less sombre (the guys aren’t exactly the life of the party), “10” is a record that recovers the spirit of the band through the paradoxical strategy of leaving a lot of space between the three musicians, who have decided to express their individualities to the detriment of a collective creation. It’s also an album of surprisingly acoustic nature: Storløkken left his synthesisers aside to focus on a grand piano, Henriksen plays his trumpet without hardly any tricks or effects and Sten provides backgrounds full of darkness and oppression (at times reminiscent of that private hell called Deathprod) and not-too-dirty guitar arrangements. And the result is a collection of short pieces (another novelty in the Supersilent universe) oscillating between melancholy, when it’s Storløkken who takes the lead (especially on the first half of the record, on tracks like “10.1” and “10.4”), and a curious elegiac feeling, when Henriksen’s at the helm, like on the warm “10.3” or “10.6”. The best moments however are created when the three establish a fluid dialogue: especially when the piano and the trumpet go in pursuit of each other on “10.8”, elaborating flourishes over a soft ambient base. A real benchmark, after which the gloomy final part of the album starts ( “10.9”, “10.10”, “10.11”), on which pianos and trumpets slowly abandon any inkling of melody, limiting to releasing loose notes, chromatic sketches that shine with fine light over the ominous moods raised by Sten. A desolate feeling full of sadness, contributed to by the atonal arrangements, the heavy pianos, the phantasmal trumpets that form the body of “10.12” and leave the listener while disappearing into the darkness.
Of course, beyond all the formal discoveries it contains (which are many and very good), the best thing about “10” is that it’s a new start for a band, unique in its genre. A band which, by the way, doesn’t seem to want to lose any time now that they have found new inspiration; before this year ends there will be three more Supersilent releases: “11”, which will be out on vinyl only, compiles various tracks recorded during the “8” sessions but were never released (these are tracks on which Vespestad was still playing); “12” will include songs recorded during the sessions for “10”, but reworked afterwards; and “100”, the most exclusive of these releases, will be part of the limited edition (very limited: 100 copies only) of “ Twenty Centuries Of Stony Sleep", the compilation with which Rune Grammofon celebrates its 100 first releases, and will contain the mythical concert the band gave at the Batofar in Paris in 2000. Bad news for the fans, who will have no choice but to max out their creditcards.