Supersilent, 9 (Rune Grammofon)
More bands should do this: When the drummer quits, don’t hire a new one and see what happens. That’s effectively what took place after Jarle Vestespad left Norwegian electro-acoustic improvising group Supersilent earlier this year. Remaining members Arve Henriksen (trumpet, voice), Stale Storløkken (keyboards), and Sten “Deathprod” Helge (electronics) didn’t fill the vacant drummer’s stool and instead seated themselves behind three Hammond organs for a series of sessions that led to their ninth release.
With Vestespad’s mercurial percussion gone and Henriksen leaving aside his muted brass and vocal coos, Supersilent’s sound severs all moorings to anything resembling “jazz.” 9 is also surprisingly unmonotonous for a recording of three people playing the same instrument, albeit one as adaptable as the organ, the pre-digital era’s stab at polyphony. For much of the four extended tracks, named numerically, the trio works with and within the spectral sound washes that have helped define its work in the past, though the organ tones sometime lend a retro sci-fi/pulp horror vibe to the proceedings, especially on “4.” Texture has always been part of the group’s arsenal, too, and it plays an even more important role here: Earbuds likely can’t do justice to the bass blasts unleashed during the stormy “2.”
The key to the album’s success, however, remains in Supersilent’s approach more than the particulars of its lineup. By recording extended improvisations and editing down to the sections it likes best, it always captures maximum serendipity. “1” features the kind of ominous metallic tones and star-drive throbs one might expect from a free-form avant-organ jam, but then the tones resolve into harmony, the brooding otherworldly mood clears, and one of the numinous melodies that remain the group’s secret weapon sails into view before evaporating. Thanks to such moments, here and there, 9 creates a near-perfect musical world.