Nearly 20 years later, almost as if it were an anniversary gift, Norwegian improvisational orchestra supersilent has just digitally released its entire discography for the very first time. As opposed to the their music, which has been called intangible, supersilent’s recordings have only existed in physical formats until now. With TIDAL HiFi, we’re proud to be delivering these recordings in CD quality, and it’s a pleasure to announce that this treasure box of improvised music is now available to a new and bigger audience.
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supersilent sits among Norway’s finest musical exports.
Attracting vaguely descriptive labels like “avant garde” and “experimental,” the cult group is best recognized for its improvisational modus operandi, as well as the strict uniformity of its album covers. They’ve collaborated with significant musicians both separately and together in this constellation. On many occasions Helge Sten has brought in supersilent to collaborate with his old band Motorpsycho, and in recent years they’ve worked with legendary Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.
Arve Henriksen’s hypnotic trumpet has been heard with everyone from David Sylvian and Laurie Anderson to Jan Bang and Terje Isungset, along with releasing a string of acclaimed solo albums on Rune Grammofon. Keyboardist Ståle Storløkken has worked with Motorpsycho, Elephant9, Terje Rypdal, and in the duo Humcrush with Sidsel Endresen. Helge Sten uses a complex array of homemade electronics, samplers, sound processing and analogue effects – cumulatively known as the ‘Audio Virus’ – in his solo ambient music as Deathprod, along with his work with Motorpsycho and producing artists like Susanna.
For your reading and listening pleasure, you can review each album in their esteemed catalogue – now streaming in TIDAL!
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supersilent was formed in 1997, when Helge Sten injected his audio virus into an existing late-‘90s free jazz group called Veslefrekk. 3 hours totally improvised deathjazzambientavantrock
1-3 was released only as a triple CD back in the days, with more than 3 hours of totally improvised deathjazzambientavantrock (their first try to label this genre free music).
It’s easy to understand that it would be hard to break up this release with tracks as long as 29 minutes onto vinyl, with possibly more than 5 LPs in total. It’s a masterwork of Scandinavian experimentalism, as well as being the first ever release on the now well-established niche record label, Rune Grammofon.
Needless to say, 4 is the follow-up to supersilent’s massive triple album debut. Ranging from subtle avant-garde pieces to hyperactive drums and a complete audio meltdown, it was originally released in 1998. Colourful, dynamic and more varied than their first effort, it combines improvisation and electronics, without a drum loop or computer in sight.
They definitely further developed their sound on this album, and earned a lot of support from credible magazines like The Wire. With this album they also stated their uniformity in cover designs and tracks numbered instead of titles.
SPEX Magazine called it “50 of the most transparent and intense minutes of improvised music released in recent years.”
By 2001, supersilent had performed several stunning concerts around Europe, and although it’s hard to say whether Helge Sten learned from his previous band Motorpsycho or even Frank Zappa to document all live concerts, this practice birthed a live recording from some 30 hours of high-quality live recordings that were cut down to a 70-minute release featuring selections from Oslo, London and Bologna.
The album titled 5 presents a somewhat calmer, more ambient and reflective side of supersilent than what those familiar with their concerts may have experienced, but as always it’s an utterly thrilling experience in the art of improvised sound, and even more difficult to define than before.
Other Music described it as, “A slow-burning 71-minute adventure in inner space, an unimaginable realm where ambient meets fusion (the dreaded F-word; supersilent dig Miles!) meets improv just until the center can hold no longer and I am devastated. Werner Herzog, anyone? supersilent know their Popol Vuh, too! And while I’m loath to invoke the T-word, in a truly just world supersilent would be as widely hailed as Tortoise.”
Originally released in 2003, 6 might be considered the most accessible album in the supersilent catalogue to date. Ranging from avant-rock to electro avant-garde, this album introduced a more narrative quality, allowing the listener to take more part in the build-up to majestic and apocalyptic endings.
For its digital reissue, this album has been remastered and restored from the original 24 bit / 96 kHz mix files.
In a 9.1/10 review, Pitchfork wrote, “Most post-rock sounds numbingly rigid next to this: supersilent may go for a big finish but the crescendos can rise suddenly, or appear so roughly and naturally that it´s obvious that no single player is forcing cues or smoothing out the arc.”
Available in a high resolution audio-only version for the first time, the remarkable concert film 7 from 2004 was directed by Kim Hiorthøy.
The sold out concert took place in Oslo and was beautifully captured by Hiorthøy and friends on 16 mm black and white film. The complete concert is presented in full, with exactly the same order as the original show, with no overdubs or repairs.
The New York Times called it “a riveting experience,” while Milkfactorygave it 5/5 stars, writing, “7 is a vibrant document of what supersilent are, and captures the band in its rawest and most captivating form.
8, which is in fact their fourth studio album, is sometimes harder, more aggressive and darker than supersilent’s other work, but also deeply emotional at times. Incorporating dual drum kits, robotic doom and telepathic improvisations, these parallel universe compositions were hailed as yet another triumph for the band when it was released in 2007, and is credited for reinventing the band.
“There’s no small talk, because small talk would be distracting, disingenous, and would cover up what’s in their minds and hearts– which is what 8 delivers, pared to its most honest form. Why waste a single breath?,” wrote Pitchfork.
supersilent became a trio when Jarle Vespestad left the band early 2009, and 9 was the first album featuring the slimmed-down lineup. Culled from three exploratory recording sessions in early 2009, it was performed utilizing three Hammond organs and outboard processing, resulting in a rather unique deep-space-avant-garde-journey.
“More than ever, it’s the documentation of a process rather than a product and, while it might not have the same structural logic as some of supersilent´s best work, it’s certainly the bravest thing they´ve ever done,” wrote The Wire.
supersilent’s tenth album was mainly recorded in Oslo’s landmark Rainbow Studio, a storied institution for both Scandinavian jazz artists and international stars for the German jazz label ECM.
Originally released alongside 11 in 2010, 10 offers a more acoustic landscape, intercepted by occasional electronic pieces. Introducing the grand piano to their palette for the first time, it features supersilent’s signature sonic imprint, but as always they’re exploring new sounds and mood.
“A quiet triumph, supersilent 10 is yet another essential chapter in this ever-evolving band’s rich history, showing that a group maybe better known for their explosive qualities is just as much at home making music that is deeply personal and measured. A huge recommendation,” wrote Other Music.
Back in 2005, the group considered making their album 8 another triple CD, yielding hours of ultimately unused session tapes.
Realizing how many fine moments were held on those recordings, producer Deathprod’s first version of the album was around 5 hours long, but later edited down to 68 minutes to fit on one CD. The selections from these tapes were released as 11, a vinyl-only release together with 10 in 2010.
Jazzwise wrote, “11 captures the quartet´s classic sound: a dark and exhilarating mix of extemporised rock, jazz, electronica and minimalism.”
As their first album in four years, 12 saw the light of day in 2014. Recorded over three different sessions in 2011, the record is cut from over 20 hours of recordings, some of them at the Emanuel Vigeland Museum, known for its 20-second natural reverb.
supersilent’s music has never been written, rehearsed or discussed ahead of time. Somewhere between the genres of free jazz, rock, electronica and modern composition, while recalling more common references, it can sometimes appear to be written or at least arranged, making it clear that these musicians communicate on a high, almost telepathic level.
“Reminiscent of the otherwordly extremes of Coil’s ANS project, each track is a portal into terrifying variations on vintage BBC Radiophonic Workshop interplanetary atmospheres brought flailing and screaming into modern dimensions,” wrote Rock-a-Rolla. “Damaged and glistening with menace yet beautiful in its precision, you´re left wondering if supersilent 12 can only be the unnameable final destination point for this unique trio.”
While it’s a real treat for us at TIDAL to present the incredible back catalogue of supersilent, it’s an equal joy to announce the pending arrival of their 13th album release, coming up next Friday, September 30.
After a dozen recordings under the umbrella of Rune Grammofon, this new album marks a turning point in the supersilent’s two-decade career, having signed to Oslo-based Smalltown Supersound, where they join the likes of such current electronic tatstemakers as Lindstrøm, DJ Harvey, Prins Thomas and Andre Bratten as labelmates.
(Main photo: Carsten Aniksdal)