Supersilent is a Norwegian improvisational collective commonly referred to, in Europe at least, as a supergroup. Their completely improvised music weds a 21st century approach to free jazz to ambient and industrial electronics. Their many albums, whose titles are only a chronological series of numbers according to release, are easily identified by a dark, brooding yet airy intensity that continually evolves in texture, timbre, and dynamic, best signified by the 2001 release 5. Given its members busy individual careers, they record and tour only intermittently, coming together when they have a new strategy to pursue such as on 2013's 12. 12 experimented with harmonic themes derived from cinema scores and delivered in dark, eerie atmospherics.
Supersilent began as an impromptu jam at the 1997 Bergen Jazz Festival between master trumpeter Arve Henriksen, tape experimenter Helge Sten (who also goes by Deathprod for solo material), Jarle Vespestad on drums, and Stale Storløkken on keyboards. The group decided to continue to play together in Helge Sten's studio and recorded endless hours of tape, eventually spliced into 1998's 1-3, a three-CD collection of wild, percussive free jazz with flourishes of Aphex Twin-like electronics. Integral to the band from this point on was their desire to exist only as a performing group — they never "write" songs or practice, and barely even speak to one another outside of gigs. This release, like all others, is without overdubs and has minimal production.
On 4, the group incorporated the influence of fellow Rune Grammofon labelmate Arne Nordheim, an electro-acoustic composer whose dark-tinged experiments are studio-controlled kin to Supersilent. The uncreatively named 5 was compiled from over 30 hours of live recordings at performances in Oslo, London, and Bologna in 2001. Here, Henriksen's strong skills come to the fore while more traditional jazz elements take hold in the din of noise. The album 6, with a focus on less intense material, was issued in 2003 to almost universal critical acclaim. It was followed two years later by 7, a DVD of a concert that took place in 2004. Critically, it was treated as a new recording and another step on the band's sonic journey. That year, Supersilent played at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, while Storløkken, a member of guitarist/composer Terje Rypdal's Skywards band, convinced the rest of Supersilent to perform with the famed musician at 2007's Moldejazz Festival. The group was also busy recording. Cut over eight sessions, the album 8 was released the same year. Originally purported to be a double release that combined 8 and 9, it was issued as a single recording. In early 2009, Vespestad left the band to participate more fully in other longstanding musical relationships including membership in Tord Gustavesen's quartet, and as drummer in Norwegian vocalist and songwriter Silje Nergaard's group.
Supersilent continued as a trio and opened up their sound even more. The issued 9, their first trio recording, near the end of the year. It featured all three members playing Hammond B-3 organs in a live concert setting recorded only months before. They also began work on a new studio album that continued into 2010. Working with a more organic process of incorporating more acoustically oriented sounds, the full-length 10 appeared in August. They released 11 simultaneously, a vinyl-only album that had been the original second half of 8. 10 was dubbed even more accessible than 6. After touring and work on solo and collaborative projects (including several festival appearances with former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones), Henriksen, Storløkken, and Sten reconvened in the studio in late 2013. They emerged with 12, a set that wove together almost cinematic harmonic themes with dark, eerie atmospheres. In 2016, the band announced that they had signed with Norwegian label Smalltown Supersound, and in August, issued the preview single "13.9" to the internet. The album 13 followed a month later. Two years later, after deciding there were many "colors" left to explore, Supersilent re-entered the studio with Deathprod as producer and engineer attempting to push their "composition in the moment" M.O. to transcend boundaries they hadn't yet discovered and emerged with 14 in the fall of 2018. ~ Daphne G.A. Carr