From the opening electro-Cambodian court music ritual vibe on Supersilent 13, one readily grasps the wide-ranging possibilities that follow on this new release from Supersilent. Quite simply, this release is a mind-bending smorgasbord of everything from ambient drones to glitchy cantilevered oddities to techno/darkwave throwdowns, and it's all executed with a really solid and acute musicality that makes astute use of silence and texture.This not to say that it is cold or academic: far from it. Each track is organic and fully realized in a compositional sense, realized in a way that emphasizes clarity and separation of sounds as an integral part of the form itself.
In David Foster Wallace’s essay “E Unibus Pluram,” he recalls a “certain gray eminence” in a graduate seminar that insisted that literary stories should do away with anything that dates them, because fiction should be timeless. He argues that characters in fiction who speak postwar English, live in North America after continental drift, and drive cars all do so within a specific, recognizable time period, therefore making this goal futile while fostering a scholarly environment that values abstraction disproportionally over those details that move consumers. Supersilent knows that eschewing temporal and cultural specificity in art is both an impossible and irresponsible task.
On "13.1," Indonesian ritual music -- global folk traditions have long been a fascination of Henriksen's -- is processed with samples of field-recorded sounds from a lonely Scandinavian mountain and clattering percussion. "13.5" asserts robotic bleeps, wave forms, and percussive and fractalized synth and guitar lines before squalling noise processes introduce what sounds like an organ theme for an early silent film before developing contrapuntal Bartók-ian harmony while syncopated and breakbeat drums (organic and machined) clash in the backdrop. Assembled, it becomes a futuristic horror soundtrack.
Supersilent's music exists beyond any normal human activity, any comprehensible emotion. It's hard to imagine partying, housecleaning, or commuting with it, as its screeches, melted horn riffs, and creep-show keyboards bombard the edge of reason. Its rhythms hint at continuity and then peel off in whatever direction, perversely arbitrary, shunting the flow.
Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos — and anything else that strikes them as intriguing — in the Playlist. You can listen to this playlist on Spotify here. Like this format? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. The moods change fast and furious on “Atrocity Exhibition,” the excellent new album by the Detroit rapper Danny Brown.
Supersilent — 13 (Smalltown Supersound)Photo by Carsten AniksdahlIn the homestretch of their second decade together, the members of Supersilent have long since settled into an established rhythm. Of course, that means you never really find an established rhythm in the group’s music and, in much the same way, pinning any one instrument on Arve Henriksen, Helge Sten or Ståle Storløkken is futile, as they all swap instruments freely from track to track. For their (surprise!) 13th release, the biggest change in the group’s operation is right there on the spine: For the first time, Supersilent is releasing outside the comfort of Rune Grammofon.