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Biosphere - Departed Glories [Smalltown Supersound - 2016]

Well known veteran ambient/downtempo electronic producer Geir Jenssen has released countless albums since the early 90's, typically employing short melodic loops from the synthesizer for a style of music with the insistent repetition of dance music or IDM, but with a softened percussive force.

His new album "Departed Glories" brings a different sound palette and a slower momentum, with no sequencing, little obvious use of synthesizer, and none of his familiar repetition either.  It sounds something like an orchestra playing underwater, with swelling and breathing melodic tones likely sourced from stringed instruments, with all of the high frequencies rolled off.  There are also wisps of angelic and ethereal choirs of voices (as in the work of Iasos), and what may be field recordings of African chanting.  Every sound on the album is muted, masked, distant, so determining their origins isn't necessarily easy.

It seems Jenssen has taken after William Basinski or Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project, and become pre-occupied with sampling classical records.  Classical is certainly a rich source of sample food, with its complex, precisely calculated harmonies and novel chord structures, particularly composers like Ravel.  There is no certain evidence that the sounds on this album are sampled, but in any case the music found on this disk is not dissimilar to the results other people have achieved through sampling.

Jenssen has visited this territory before with albums like "Autour De La Lune", with was filled largely with string drones and faint vinyl hiss.  This album is certainly fainter and more muffled than "Autour", and as a result it has a certain obscurity and mysteriousness.  You could generally class this album as 'dark ambient', with its mournful, haunted, and lonely tone, a well spring of uncomfortable memories, an ode to drained energy.  The heavily modulated and harmonized 2 minutes of "Free From the Bondage You Are In" wouldn't sound out of place on a Rapoon, Zoviet France or Nocturnal Emissions album, with that same sense of unexplained anomaly from the fringes of the Earth, and ancestral primitivist spirit. 

Biosphere has created an album that doesn't sound like classic Biosphere, and I would call it a successful experiment.  I'm a huge fan of many of the artists I have compared this album to in this review.  While the entire album is hushed and subtle, it does offer plenty of variety within that spectrum, each of the 17 short tracks never wearing out their welcome.  I would recommend this to fans of drift ambient and magickal psychedelic drone.  If you've wished for a sparser, less repetitive Biosphere album, this is it.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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