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New speeds

Hunched over their instruments in Oslo's basement-like John Dee venue, this four-piece is an unprecedented mixture of different musical styles. They are rooted in the free jazz tradition set in motion by Ornette Coleman, and all the music is wholly improvised. They are also firmly within the electronic category, especially the kind of electronica typified by artists like Autechre, who based their music around avoiding the "tension and release" of rock music. This music also involves the tradition of those who experiment in noise and ambient sound. And while Supersilent can be noisy, they also have the ability to completely hold back, playing only sweet sounds with synth, trumpet or just a lone voice, singing sounds without words. It's the abstractness that's important, not whether it is manifested in a pleasant or harsh way. After all, "supersilent" could mean both "very silent" and "above silent".

A live experience of this band is one that I have always heard raved about, and I finally got my chance at this festival. I thought it took them about 45 minutes to really warm up, though. You see, at first I felt I was hearing nothing that showed development from what I'd heard on the albums. There is always a danger that they will cease to develop. I wanted to hear them improvise something new. I finally got what I wanted when some kind of tape delay sound was looped, joining Arve Henriksen's high-pitched and reverberated wailing, and then Helge Sten started playing some kind of electronic version of a lap steel guitar. They followed this piece with something completely ultra-aggressive, with Henriksen screaming into a vocoder like a toy robot in love with the wrong kind of heavy rock, and Sten moved around some kind of theremin thing clasped in his fist. Then everything went faster than light...

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Supersilent
  • Subtitle: Supersilent at the 2005 Oslo Jazz Festival
  • Venue: John Dee
  • City State Country: Oslo, Norway
Barry Kavanagh

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