upersilent traps jazz in a network of wires, scatters it through 21st century fiber optics, reassembles it into transnational splatter. When the machine met man, creativity was not killed in the collision, but multiplied into schizophrenia, a condition channeled and honed by the Norwegian quartet. Their improvisational process is dizzying enough to hear, but on 7 we’re forced to see it too.
I say forced, because there is no escaping this DVD. Through an abundance of how-are-they-doing-that moments, 7 induces participation. Though the film—an entire concert recorded in Oslo in 2005—becomes exhausting as it nears a second hour, its length should be celebrated.
Supersilent sounds better after total immersion, as extended exposure clarifies the logic of the group and pushes their subtle-yet-grand interplay closer to the surface. The fluidity with which the pieces develop makes jazz standards of strange bedfellows. The snarling, grainy tones of Helge Sten’s Deathprod project somehow complement Arve Henriksen’s romantic trumpet bursts perfectly. The glacial winds from keyboardist Ståle Storløkken bounce with drummer Jarle Vespestad’s rapid-fire rhythms like two kids on a trampoline. Supersilent’s fusions succeed so effortlessly that they seem to lead to a future where all genres melt together into a common improviser’s toolkit. But my experience with ear-grating electro-acoustic ensembles tells me otherwise. Despite their technological trappings, Supersilent gets by on old-fashioned chemistry.
Centered around trumpeter Arve Henriksen, the only member of the band facing the audience unobscured, Supersilent radiates outward, three spokes pointing towards different traditions.
Consider the postures: Helge Sten, crouches wolf-eyed over a set of knob-boxes. His dark, textured material pays its dues to post-industrial demiurges Nurse With Wound and Coil. Sten looks poised to pounce on the rest of the group, teeth bared with black noise spewing forth from tense jaws.
Rarely blinking, Storløkken monitors his crew, his eyes stealing light from the dim house. More often than not, his tones characterize the songs, leaving the melodic stamps by which they are remembered. Yet he is resolutely group-focused, refusing to outstrip his bandmates.
Henriksen angles downward, towards his mic and trumpet. His muse is more personal, passionate, prone to outbreaks of semi-lingual vocals, sung with impressive range. Supersilent owes much of its humanity to Henriksen’s powerful emotional presence.
7 has its rough patches, of course. The entirety of track two does little more than gather shards of keys and scat stylings around a driven, but relatively uniform beat. And a ten-minute miscue is no mere caveat. Luckily the band redeems itself immediately thereafter. Their third piece follows Storløkken’s mellotron and Henriksen’s suddenly waifish singing to a hurried, percussive climate. While Supersilent’s penchant for high-volume meltdowns becomes a bit tedious over the course of the album, on the third track it works. Storløkken unfurls grand, droned gestures over Henriksen’s ominous rising trumpet and Sten’s vaguely funky electro-burping. The sound fabric provided by Storløkken maintains the track as a continuous whole rather than a collection of hyperactive fragments.
It’s difficult to evaluate 7 within Supersilent’s discography. Each album contains enough of the others, while remaining inventive, that the group defies the conventional arcs followed by most bands. But taken together, the conclusion is clear enough. On 7, Supersilent further cements its reputation as the jazz band to be seen and heard by the post-everything generation.
Reviewed by: Bryan Berge
Reviewed on: 2006-04-05