(Copyright © 1999-2022 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

North Pole By Submarine , 5/10
Microgravity , 6.5/10
Patashnik , 6/10
Jenssen: The Fires Of Ork , 5/10
Polar Sequences , 6/10
Insomnia, 5/10
Substrata , 7.5/10
Birmingham Frequencies , 5/10
Cirque , 6/10
Shenzhou, 6.5/10
Autour De La Lune (2004) , 6/10
Dropsonde (2005), 5/10
N-Plants (2011), 5/10

Norway's multi-instrumentalist Geir Jenssen (ex-Bel Canto), who had pioneered ambient house with Bleep's North Pole By Submarine (1990), produced one of the most lyrical albums of ambient house, Microgravity (1991), credited to his new project, Biosphere. And that project evolved towards a rhythm-less "arctic sound", set in a icy wasteland of sonic bliss, with Polar Sequences (1996) and especially Substrata (1997).
Norwegian keyboardist Geir Jenssen quit Bel Canto almost immediately in order to devote himself to his solo projects. E-man, that had already released the cassette E-man (Likvider, 1984), debuted on vinyl with the single Change This Circus. Bleep released the singles Sure Be Glad When You're Dead, In Your System, A Byte Of AMC, Launch Pad and the album North Pole By Submarine (SSR, 1990), one of the earliest specimen of ambient house.

The project Biosphere was launched in 1991 with Fairy Tale and soon monopolized his attention. The instrumental album Microgravity (Origo, 1991) lifted ambient house to another degree. A sense of surreal calm pervades Baby Satellite, with its sensual African polyrhythmic carpet and a gentle electronic breeze, the eight-minute Tranquilizer, a looping cosmic carillon over a steady beat, and Baby Interphase, a sophisticated interplay of independent electronic strains over an almost Brazilian fast-paced rhythm. The album wakes up with The Fairy Tale, five minutes of loud techno propulsion, and with the tribal jungle beat of Cygnus A. A major detour is represented by the sinister soundsculpting of Biosphere and Cloudwalker II, neither danceable but both worthy of Brian Eno in his bleakest moments. The sampled vocals are more of a distraction than an attraction, though. And they will sound dated in a few years.

Patashnik (Origo, 1994), with SETI Project and the relentless Novelty Waves, recycled the same idea of ambient house.

Jenssen also recorded a collaboration with Pete Namlook, The Fires Of Ork (Fax, 1994), whose second part was released in 2000.

Il tastierista Geir Jenssen lascio` quasi subito i Bel Canto per dedicarsi ai suoi numerosi progetti. E-man, che aveva gia` pubblicato la cassetta E-man (Likvider, 1984), esordisce con il singolo Change This Circus. Bleep pubblica i singoli Sure Be Glad When You're Dead, In Your System, A Byte Of AMC, Launch Pad e l'album North Pole By Submarine (SSR, 1990), uno dei primi esempi di ambient house.

I Biosphere nascono nel 1991 con Fairy Tale e monopolizzano presto la sua attenzione. I loro album interamente strumentali, Microgravity (Origo, 1991), con Baby Interphase e Cloudwalker, e Patashnik (Origo, 1994), con SETI Project e la travolgente Novelty Waves, si annoverano fra i classici dell'house ambientale. Jenssen ha anche registrato un album con Pete Namlook, The Fires Of Ork (Fax, 1994), a cui fara` seguito un secondo volume nel 2000.

The success of his techno hit did not turn Jenssen into a techno star. The following pair of albums reflected the more experimental aspects of his work: brief electronic vignettes on the movie soundtrack Insomnia (Origo, 1997), lengthy ambient trances on Substrata (All Saints, 1997 - Touch, 2001), that would be reissued with the 1996 soundtrack to The Man With The Movie Camera (Touch, 2000).

Substrata best epitomized Jenssen's "arctic sound", the rhythm-less soundpaintings set in an icy wasteland of sonic bliss, basically a return to Brian Eno's original ambient tenet. Chukhung filters natural sounds and exotic instruments to achieve a concerto of reverbed clangors. Otherworldly voices and natural sounds rise out of shapeless reverbs in its alter-ego, Antennaria. Sinister noises keep The Things I Tell You open-ended, like a fresco in progress, and bestow on Hyperborea the cinematic quality of an alien video. The cosmic fluctuations of Sphere of No-Form display the tragic weltanschauung of Klaus Schulze's Irrlicht. With Silene an ominous vibration advances into the galactic peace The album exuded a stately elegance far removed from the hedonism of ambient house.
Sampled vocals are used less than in previous albums, but they are no less annoying.

The single Endurium/ The Eye Of The Cyclone (1998) was basically an extension of Substrata (they were included in the Japanese edition of the album).

A parallel activity by Biosphere was to conduct live concerts in scenic locations. Both Polar Sequences (1996) and Birmingham Frequencies (Headphone, 2000) documented live exhibitions with British composer Bobby Bird of Higher Intelligence Agency.

Other projects included a remix album of Arne Nordheim's music, Nordheim Transformed (1998), and Biosystems (1999), Biosphere's remixes of other musicians tracks.

Finally, Cirque (Touch, 2000) marked the return of Biosphere to its trademark "arctic" sound. The "ice-age techno" of Nook And Cranny is to techno what Kraftwerk was to disco-music: a wasteland looking for feelings. A new degree of subtlety emerges from pieces built out of nothing, such as Le Grand Dome (swamp-evoking African percussions) and Black Lamb And Grey Falcon (a loop of one guitar note and a little electronic oscillation). Even more sophisticated are the jazzy ambient-house of Iberia Eterea and the fusion of drum'n'bass and dub that materializes in Algae & Fungi. Biosphere was still projecting the same extraterrestrial shadow on ambient-dance music.

Biosphere's Shenzhou (Touch, 2002) marked Geir Jenssen's adoption of the "glitch" aesthetics. Biosphere's "arctic ambient" music (that always managed to sound both lyrical and stark, fluent and hermetic) is augmented with a process of random "remixing" of a sound source (in this case old crackling records of Debussy music). Everything is subdued, from the distorted loops of Shenzhou to the mournful drones of Spindrift to the tribal beat Ancient Campfire to the high-pitched whistle of Heat Leak to the elongated clangors of Gravity Assist. The undercurrent of Debussy music is barely audible. The process is disorienting but the elements that make it disorienting act like ghosts or thieves. A few pieces are just Debussy remixes (Two Ocean Plateau, Fast Atoms Escape, Green Reflections): Jenssen brings out all the pathos of Debussy's music from their stronger orchestral accents.
Like in all Biosphere albums, the filigree of the sound is fragile, thin, evanescent. Jenssen has never believed in lush arrangements, in crowded textures, in overwhelming stylistic statements. He paid a price for this, often sounding "dated" in an age in which many of his discoveries were becoming mass commodities.

Geir Jenssen focused on the beat for Biosphere's nine-movement suite Autour De La Lune (Touch, 2004), another example of ambient minimal "musique concrete" built from electronics and snippets of found sounds.

The percussion loops on Dropsonde (Touch, 2005) added a jazzy touch to Jenssen 's electronica, which was hardly "ambient" anymore, evolving towards a more "constructed" and less "abstract" style.

Cho Oyu 8201m (Ash International, 2006), credited to Jenssen himself, collects field Recordings from Tibet.

Wireless Live (Touch, 2009) is a live album from Biosphere.

More regular beats fueled N-Plants (Touch, 2011).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Elio Manco)

Il successo della sua musica techno non ha trasformato Jenssen in una techno star. Infatti i due successivi albums riflettono molto di più l’aspetto sperimentale del suo lavoro: brevi illustrazioni elettroniche per la colonna sonora del film Insomnia (Origo, 1997), brani "ambient" lunghi e ipnotici (come Endurium e As The Sun Kissed The Horizon) in Substrata (All Saints, 1997 - Touch, 2001), che possono essere riportati alla colonna sonora del 1996 The Man With The Movie Camera (Touch, 2000). Substrata è il lavoro che meglio riassume questo suo "suono artico" e si pone tra i migliori albums "ambient" del 1990.

Una attività parallela alla ricerca musicale viene condotta nella scelta dei luoghi dove tenere i concerti. Sia Polar Sequences (1996) che Birmingham Frequencies (Headphone, 2000) sono lavori che documentano le esibizioni dal vivo con la collaborazione del compositore inglese Bobby Bird della Higher Intelligence Agency. Soprattutto il primo dei due, che è sicuramente il miglior lavoro della Biosphere Records.

Altri progetti includono dei remissaggi della musica di Arne Nordheim, Nordheim Transformed (1998), and Biosystems (1999), un remix rilasciato da Biosphere, con brani di altri musicisti.

Cirque (Touch, 2000) segna il ritorno di Biosphere alle sue classiche "sonorità artiche". Volendo definire questo periodo come "techno-glaciale" (per provenienza e non per contenuti musicali), Nook And Cranny appartiene alla techno così come i primi Kraftwerk appartenevano alla disco-music: terre desolate in cerca di sensibilità. Nei 10 anni di collaborazione insieme alla Biosphere, Jenssen continua ancora con le stesse eteree musicalità sulla musica techno-dance.

Anneli Drecker ha pubblicato un album come solista Tundra (2000) e i singoli Woebegone e All I Know.

L’album “Shenzhou” (Touch, 2002) è contraddistinto per l'adozione da parte di Geir Jenssen della cosiddetta “estetica Glitch” (Il termine “glitch” in elettronica  è usato per indicare un picco breve ed improvviso (non periodico) in una forma d'onda, causato da un errore non prevedibile.  In musica viene realizzato inserendo ritmicamente e spesso una serie di “errori” digitali o analogici generati volutamente). La musica "arctic ambient" dei Biosphere (che riesce sempre ad essere sia lirica che aspra, fluente ed ermetica) è aumentata con un processo casuale remissando  una sorgente sonora (in questo caso i vecchi dischi gracchianti di Debussy). Tutto è sottomesso, dalle anse distorte di Shenzhou ai droni luttuosi di Spindrift, al ritmo tribale di Ancient  Campfire al fischio acuto di Heat Leak agli allungati rumori di Gravity Assist. Il sottofondo della musica di Debussy è appena udibile. Il processo è disorientante, ma gli elementi che creano questa sorta di disorientamento agiscono di nascosto, come fantasmi o ladri. Alcuni pezzi sono solo remix di Debussy (Two Ocean Plateau, Fast Atoms Escape, Green Reflections): Jenssen tira fuori tutto il pathos della musica di Debussy da questi  forti accenti orchestrali.

Come in tutti gli album di Biosphere, la filigrana del suono è fragile, sottile, evanescente. Jenssen non ha mai creduto in arrangiamenti lussureggianti, in tessiture affollate, nelle dichiarazioni stilistiche travolgenti. Ha pagato un prezzo per questo, spesso il sound sembra  "datato", in un'epoca in cui molte delle sue scoperte stavano diventando prodotti di massa.

Per il nono lavoro di Biosphere, Autour De La Lune (Touch, 2004), Geir Jenssen si è concentrato sul ritmo,  un altro esempio di "musica concreta" minimale costruito trovando frammenti di suoni ed elettronica.

 I loop delle percussioni in Dropsonde (Touch, 2005) hanno aggiunto un tocco jazz all’elettronica di Jenssen, che non era certo soltanto musica "ambient", evolvendosi  verso uno stile più "costruito" e meno "astratto".

Cho Oyu 8201m (Ash International, 2006), accreditato a Jenssen stesso, raccoglie le registrazioni di campo dal Tibet.

Wireless live (Touch, 2009) è un album dal vivo di Biosphere.

Ritmi invece più i più regolari sono presenti in N-Plants (Touch, 2011).

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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