Although I'm not as huge of a fan of Supersilent as some, I have to admit my intrigue for the artist simply known as Helge Sten. A member and producer of Supersilent, he also records under the name Deathprod (which was originally the name of his own underground cassette label) and until this year hadn't released any material on CD despite having been working on the creation of different sounds for nearly the past 10 years. With this 4CD self-titled boxset, he lays bare almost 3 hours of music that range from simple frequency experiments to what is some of the deepest, darkest ambient music I've ever heard.
Housed in a matte black box devoid any significant markings and packaged in digipacks of nearly the same quality, the Deathprod boxset looms like a mini-monolith from the movie 2001 One could even view it as a sort of visual representation of Sten's famous "audio virus," a black box (hole) that swallows pure sound and releases it somewhere, anywhere in a completely altered form.
Reference Frequencies is the first disc of the release and covers work from the period of 1991-2001. After opening with the buzzing "Reference Frequencies #3," the disc moves into "6:15," a track mixing a spoken-word poem mixing with very subtle swells of haunting background ambience. The two-part "Recording The Jürg Mager Trio" are even more strange, sounding like improvised Hammond Organ pieces. The disc closes with the beautiful "Dora 3" after a trio of "Reference Frequency" tracks that again make their mark with feedback and noise.
Treetop Drive, recorded during the years of 1993-1994 is an enormous step up from the first disc in terms of both sonics and ideas. The three-part album-titled track is an absolutely stunning triptych of manipulated violin that moves from section to section (slow and swelling to piercing and then back to dark and swarming) with an amazing amount of ease and pushes the limits of one instrument and the sounds it can make. "Towboat" closes the disc with pinched ripples of low-end feedback and the effect is something like listening to whale songs while enclosed in a block of ice.
While it's interesting in theory and for tactile reasons, the first part of the third disc of Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha is also probably the least interesting. After recording and manipulating the sounds of violin, Sten then had the tracks transferred to phonograph cylinders, creating lo-fidelity copies of the original that crackle and wheeze with the last breathes of life. The tracks only comprise about 8 minutes of the disc, though (at only about 2 minutes apiece, the life span of a phonograph cylinder), and the final track of "The Contraceptive Briefcase II" more than makes up for any weaknesses. A thirty-minute plus epic constructed from bowed glass, violin, and vocals, the track is a very slowly evolving descent into an otherworldly place. In short, it's one of the more genuinely creepy tracks I've ever heard.
Morals And Dogma is the fourth disc in the boxset and also the only one to be made available on its own. Created between 1994-2000, it's the work that's the most realized in terms of overall construction. "Tron" opens the disc with very subtle washes of deep drones while "Dead People's Things" mixes a looped and decaying violin with more deep murmurs for a track that at 20 minutes doesn't even sound nearly long enough. It's astoundingly beautiful and incredibly mournful at the same time. "Orgone Donor" is more layered violin and might be one of the brighter tracks on the entire set (sounding downright hopeful at times) while "Cloudchamber" closes out the release (and the set) with another series of heady subterranean sweeps.
Out of the 4CDs in the set, I'd have to say that my favorites are easily Treetop Drive and Morals And Dogma, but there are so many great moments located within the set that it's hard to pick them all out. As mentioned above, this is deep, dark listening, and even though this is what many would consider minimal music, there's by no means a shortage of things going on within. This will be on my year-end list.