Rune Grammofon, 2007
By Allana Mayer
Left to my own devices, I’d never describe Supersilent as “free-jazz” or anything in that vein — they barely deserve a genre at all. And I’m sick of reading descriptions of Supersilent that include some variation on “exploring uncharted sonic territories” or “redefining a visceral experience of avant-garde.” The truth is, Supersilent is in the same sonic territory it explored with 1-3, and if it was uncharted then, what is it now?
They’re still groundbreaking by any other bands’ terms, but less so on their own. Maybe they’ve just gotten comfortable with their signature noise of electronic pops and fizzles, muted trumpet flutters, and doom-spilling bass notes. There really are signs of musical regression on 8. It’s as though to warm up, get psyched for their first studio recording in five years, and remember what this bizarre group is for, these accomplished musicians pulled out previous works 1 through 7 and had a self-indulgent listening party.
Is it a coincidence that 8 has eight tracks, and that many of them remind me of specific earlier tracks? No, I wouldn’t go so far as to presume an intentional revisiting or a sly retrospective. I won’t try to prove that “8.1″ is curiously 1-ish and “8.5″ is curiously 5-ish… But it wouldn’t be too surprising for Supersilent to revisit their past work for a bit of inspiration. They’ve brought back old refrains before. Thankfully, some tracks prove that they can easily move past their previous material.
“8.1″ is all anticipation, eleven minutes of nervous caged energy; “8.4″ is excellent, a piece that sings softly and moves subtly, as though in the dark alleyway of a film-noir set. “8.5″ almost makes you complacent, because it’s soooooo close to being a structured song. Five minutes into it, there are these embarrassingly earnest chords, actual chords. I did a double take.
Then “8.7″ comes on with a straight launch into a thrashing mess with none of their trademark buildup, and I know they’re not so stuck in their ways. As if to prove they’re not, even. But the thing is that it still sounds good. You can still find a rhythm, a refrain, if you try hard enough. It’s somehow still got technical skill; it’s not just some lads fucking around in the garage in studs and spikes. It’s the same sound, but different, because it’s self-aware. And it’s that trying, that rational effort you have to put in, that makes the music so intellectually satisfying. You’re rewarded for the energy you invest.
And now that we’ve seen them, on the live 7 DVD, and we know how they work — that they’re intent-looking, conservatively dressed adults sitting down to play, weaving and nodding earnestly with the noises they create — we can laugh at how much better they are at the theatrics of it all, to create angst without really feeling it.