Two years on from Supersilent 8, regular as clockwork, Supersilent now release Supersilent 9. Housed, as ever, in that highly distinctive trademark packaging (turquoise, this time around), without descriptive track titles or personnel details, Supersilent 9 seems set to continue the sequence that has been running since 1997. Irrespective of the music, all the elements of that sequence generate their own calculated sense of predictability and sanitised safety. It is too easy to stereotype those with the entire Supersilent oeuvre lined up in order on their (IKEA?) shelves (not far from carefully selected ECM albums – Keith Jarrett, maybe): male, professional, IT literate, neat, as similar but different as their Supersilent albums…
But all is not as it seems. In Supersilentworld, after 12 years as a foursome, Supersilent is now a trio. For reasons that are undisclosed, drummer Jarle Vespestad departed before the recording of Supersilent 9. In response to his departure, the remaining members have reinvented the group. For this album Helge “Deathprod” Sten and Arve Henriksen forsook electronics and trumpet in favour of Hammond organ. Keyboardist Stale Storlokken sticks to Hammond, too, so all the music here was played on three overlaid Hammond organs. Without percussion, electronics or trumpet, the results differ radically from any past Supersilent music.
Despite the novel instrumentation, Supersilent’s fundamental principles remain intact. Even as a threesome, their music is still collective group improvisation without focus on individuals; they neither rehearse as a group nor discuss the music before or after producing it. The results lie at the overlapping borders of ambient, rock, jazz, electronica and modern composition. The album opens with a low-key track that initially seems underwhelming: “9.1” is based around organ sounds and effects that are curiously reminiscent of early lost-in-space Pink Floyd. The three organs produce a complex and satisfyingly full soundscape, but without any dramatic peaks and troughs, it cries out for a whisper of “careful with that axe, Eugene” to trigger some drama. In the past, Henriksen’s trumpet would have provided just such a focus. Instead, this cruises along happily on its plateau for over 12 minutes. Truly ambient, and no bad thing.
Across all of the album’s four tracks, the three players fully explore the possibilities of the Hammond, pushing at the boundaries of what it can produce. The results are a long way from the classic organ of Jimmy Smith or Keith Emerson, more free form and with less rhythmic drive than either. “9.2” opens with an extended exploration of the Hammond’s bass frequencies, which are weaved together into a gothic, doom-laden piece before evolving into an eerie mid-section that evokes the soundtracks of classic horror movies. Here, as elsewhere, it is impossible to disentangle the contributions of the individual players.