Release Date: Sep 23, 2016
Record label: Smalltown Supersound
Genre(s): Electronic, Ambient, Pop/Rock
"Haunted" has become a clichéd word used to describe music that sounds dissonant, unsettling and alien. It's easy to understand why: influential artists like Burial, Demdike Stare and Boards Of Canada have long brought a ghostly quality to their music by using old, obscure samples and wisps of disembodied voice. But Biosphere did it first. 54-year-old Norwegian producer Geir Jenssen has been making eerie, darkly beautiful electronic music for roughly 26 years now, yet none of his 11 previous albums are quite like his latest.
The artist Jessica Ingram’s series of photographs “Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial” seems, at a glance, to simply portray beautiful or quotidian parts of the Southern landscape. But the postcard-ready images are backlit by an appalling fact: They were all the sites of racist murders. On his new Biosphere record, Departed Glories, the influential Norwegian ambient musician Geir Jenssen does something strikingly similar, poised at the emotional conflict between the world’s everlasting beauty and the evanescent atrocities that seem to linger around it long after actual events.
Want to get calm? Geir Jenssen has been lulling us to sleep with his icy soundscapes since 1991. He is the king of calm, the sultan of breathing, and the chief of chill. His new record, Departed Glories, is everything the ambient fan could dream of. Geir is probably sitting on his throne of ice, a wry smile on his face, knowing that he has made another subtle masterpiece.
Departed Glories is some of the simplest music Biosphere has ever recorded, yet at times it feels infinitely dense. Geir Jenssen’s first record since 2011’s N-Plants is a sea of croaking, naturalistic ambient tones and dissonant, eldritch voice loops that brood quietly in private reflective pools, repeating tense phrases or exhausted drone back to themselves like mantras. These fragments of folk and drone, the ghostly remnants of a larger, long-vanished sound source, cause curious shades of darkness as they collide and interact, adding to an overall sensation of ambiguity while encouraging the listener to scour the small details for things to love.
Departed Glories is Norwegian ambient legend Biosphere's first release on Smalltown Supersound after a lengthy run of albums for Jon Wozencroft's drone-heavy Touch label, as well as several archival releases and reissues on the artist's own Biophon Records. No two Biosphere albums are alike (and there's over a dozen of them), but this one is much closer to the haunting, creaking soundscapes of his 1997 classic, Substrata, than his earliest techno releases, or even later albums like the jazzy Dropsonde (2005) or the downtempo N-Plants (2011). Biosphere's Geir Jenssen originates from Tromsø, a city within the Arctic Circle and not far from the Russian border, but he resides in Kraków, Poland, and this album is informed by all of those locations.
Biosphere — Departed Glories (Smalltown Supersound)Krakow, Poland is an old city. You don’t have to believe in ghosts to be haunted by places full of history, and something like that happened to Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere) when he lived there for a couple of years. The forest where he did his daily jog was once a hiding place from Tartar invaders 800 years ago and more recently a killing ground for Jews in World War II.
Geir Jenssen, the ambient stalwart who records as Biosphere, has traditionally made his best music when he pushes himself outside his comfort zone. It’s easy to forget what a hard left turn his 1997 album Substrata, often listed as one of the best ambient albums ever made, was from the post-Orb comedown techno he’d been making for years before. And his best work since, including the deep drone of 2004’s Autour De La Lune and the paranoid synth experiments of 2011’s excellent N-Plants, have departed dramatically from expectations for the Biosphere project.