“13.9” is not for everyone. I’m just going to say that upfront, because it’s not. I caught this instrumental track last night, while waiting for Mazzy Star to take the stage at the Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian. I Shazam’ed it, because I had no idea what it was. And under normal circumstances, I probably would’ve passed right over it. But in this cavernous old church hall, it made quite a searing impression.
This one comes from Norwegian avant-garde act Supersilent, which is a somewhat misleading name, to say the least. They’re anything but silent. They deal in loud aural abstractions, grounded in experimental jazz, and focused through the prism of electronics. Also, they’re an improvisational act, with all of their 14 albums based in spontaneity, yet systematically titled by number, with each song sequentually named, identified by decimal placement – i.e. “13.9” from the album “13.” Clearly, Supersilent functions on a different plane of artistry here.
So “13.9” … As mentioned, I probably would’ve skipped this one, if I hadn’t been a captive audience member at the cathedral. It’s a whopping 13 minutes in length, give or take a couple seconds, and can only be described as sculpted freeform noise. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. But if you didn’t stop to listen, that might be you’re only takeaway … hence, the benefits of not having a choice, in my situation.
Essentially, this epic improv is a freeform experimental jazz jam, once you strip out the stacked layers of distortion and feedback. There’s no percussion, at least in the traditional sense. A lone horn, and some windy synthesized chimes comprise the bulk of the journey, pushed to white noise static-induced volumetric limits. But strangely, it remains listenable, immersive and mesmerizing.
I probably should’ve been high for maximum impact. But I was in a cathedral sanctuary, which might be the next best thing. Hearing this at high volume on holy ground has a way of getting under your skin, seeping into your soul, so to speak. And it’s slightly disorienting … in a good way. You lose track of time, and you start hearing sounds that you’re unsure of, wondering if your mind is playing tricks on you, if that instrument was really there, beneath all that noise.
I bet “13.9” would be a great inclusion in a sound bath session, if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, it might serve as an unorthodox meditation tool. Sometimes a drone-drenched wash of cacophony can lure you into the Zen zone. Either way, I cautiously recommend this one, as it probably won’t suite many an ear. But if you give it a chance to assert its experimental allure, you might encounter something transcendent and divine. Of course, that could be me just channeling the cathedral setting.
Here’s Supersilent’s “13.9” for your experiential listening pleasure. I’m starting with a Soundcloud embed, because you get the whole improvised odyssey from start to finish. A Spotify sample isn’t going to cut it on first listen. But I’ve included that too, just in case this one works for you, and want to add it to your own playlists. Enjoy!
Spotify embed of “13.9” from the 2016 album “13.”