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Spotlight

Humcrush

By Phil Freeman
Published March 13, 2007
NORWAY

Some really interesting, forward-looking music has been coming out of the frozen wastes of Norway—and no, we’re not talking about Satanic black metal, though that’s got its virtues. There’s a kind of future jazz buzzing out of the fjords, a music that melds acoustic and electronic instruments with the latest production techniques and a willingness to experiment, improvise and deal with the consequences, in the moment. Foremost among these musicians are the members of the improvising quartet Supersilent—one of whom, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, is half of the duo Humcrush. The group’s second disc, Hornswoggle, has just been released. It’s a melodic blend of electronic drone and crackle atop live drums courtesy Thomas Strønen, recorded live in the studio and edited, occasionally overdubbed, after the fact. “Both Supersilent and Humcrush are totally improvised,” says Storløkken, “but in Humcrush we try to play more groovy and funky, with rapid changes in mood and sounds. Supersilent is kind of more organic in regard to these changes, and is more multilayered music than Humcrush.” The group maintains the same attitude of constant improvisation and reinvention onstage. “Even if all the music is improvised,” he explains, “we can use elements of the albums live as well, but in a new context—small phrases, melodies, sounds, or just moods. But it;s nothing we plan in advance.” The question is, given both Supersilent’s and Humcrush’s dependence on their ability to distort sounds electronically, what would Storløkken do if he had to unplug? “I grew up playing both piano and church organ,” he says. “So I would [play] one of those, preferably church organ—the mechanical type, so you can pull the stops halfway out and make a lot of weird sounds. It’s the intrument that comes closest to an acoustic equivalent of the synthesizer.”