The genre of drone jazz is a small one. Okay, maybe it doesn’t even exist. But if any band were to get slotted as such, it would be Norwegian quartet Supersilent. 8 is the ensemble’s eighth album. Other acts will waste your time tabulating the entries in their discography, but not these guys. Their song titles are equally terse, running from “8.1” to “8.8”. Supersilent leave these anal proclivities behind when they step into the recording studio. What they created there for this CD’s opening trio of cuts is largely improvisational clatter, with Jarle Vespetad’s drums rumbling behind the burbling electronics of the other three members: Helge Sten (credited only with “audio virus”, he produced the record under the cuddly sobriquet Deathprod), keys and synths man Ståle Storløkken, and trumpeter Arve Henriksen. The latter is so laid-back and spare on “8.4” that his horn line barely exists, like a thin wisp of fog. “8.5” is the record’s prettiest track, as washes of dreamy, shoegazey, fuzz guitar clusters give way to Henriksen’s lovely little trumpet solo, a performance that aches with weary beauty. It’s kind of hard to believe this is coming from the same group who, minutes earlier, sounded like a free jazz interpretation of the soundtrack to Liquid Sky.
Maintaining their spirit of unpredictability, the remainder of the album features abstract noise rock (“8.7”), minimal techno (“8.6”), a semi-soothing journey into the cosmos (“8.8”), and a fingernails-on-chalkboard, falsetto faux-aria (also “8.6”). Fortunately, most of this album isn’t all that excruciating, depending on your thresholds of indulgence for experimental noise and improvisational excursions into darkly minimalist jazztronica. No, Supersilent aren’t creating music for most people. But you adventurous listeners out there on the fringe should take note. If you dig Stockhausen, Sonic Youth, Aphex Twin, and the recent batch of releases from Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid, then the enigmatic 8 is for you. All others, beware. Supersilent will freak you out.