Supersilent in the Darkness/RIP Otis Rush

Supersilent (photo: Paal Audestad)

Supersilent (photo: Paal Audestad)

On Friday veteran Norwegian sound explorers Supersilent carried on with its rigid titling formula to release 14 (Smalltown Supersound), the album that comes after 13, which dropped in 2016. It’s one the group’s starkest efforts, rooted in ominous ambient drift and scarred by deliciously dark, often dissonant clouds of noise coasting within the improvised scapes. While the trumpet playing of Arve Henriksen frequently cuts through the din in both tart smears and vocalic murmurs, the dominant elements are electronic, with the keyboards and processing of Ståle Storløkken and Helge Sten (aka Deathprod) forging an alien soundworld, as a procession of sonic objects were floating and undulating within a milky ether.

Henriksen, who also adds some electronically-treated vocals here and there, is largely responsible for the melodic trickles that direct some of the pieces—such as the lyric, nasal lines that herald “14.4” complemented by a few snare hits and some tweaked-out electric piano notes—but he’s just as adept at piling on amorphous textures, thickening the aqueous, wafting murk. While such a description might suggest a formless blob of sound trudging forward without much purpose, each concise piece—only one clocks in over five minutes, and most are considerably shorter—arrives as a potent vignette, with the members of Supersilent deftly digging into a single atmosphere or motion and letting go once the idea has been exhausted. It all feels like a deliberate counterpoint to the trio’s past immersion in long-form workouts.

While its sonic palette may be familiar at this point and the ongoing lack of a drummer definitely limits the sort of dynamic swings the group delivered when Jarle Vespestad was still a member, 14 stands as one of the most engrossing efforts they’ve produced since his departure nearly a decade ago. On the one hand “14.7” bristles with livewire lyricism carved out by Henriksen’s harmonized blowing, “14.6,” which you can check out below, serves up wonderfully acidic swirls of noise punctuating a brooding excursion utterly bereft of light. The polarities are strong but subtle, and it all adds up to a rich kind of totality.

The news about the death of bluesman Otis Rush reached me on Saturday, and his passing further shuts the door on living traces of the epochal period of Chicago blues in the 50s, when the rustic form was utterly reinvented for urban populations. Rush was one of the first blues musicians I became interested, all thanks to a cover of his classic “All Your Love” by Universal Congress Of on its 1988 ep This is Mecolodics. Although Rush made plenty of great recordings through the 70s, for me nothing matches the bite of his earliest work on Cobra, particularly the slashing, lacerating opening guitar notes of “All Your Love,” which sounds as ageless as ever.


Today’s playlist:

MusikFabrik, Nach Innen (Toward the Inside) (Wergo)

Snik, Metasediment Rock (Clean Feed)

Shelley Hirsch & Simon Ho, Where Were You Then? (Tzadik)

Thirteenth Assembly, Station Direct (Important)

Vittorio Rieti, Music for Harpsichords & Instruments (New World)