B I G C H I L L R E C O R D O F T H E W E E K


Biosphere's latest recording makes for a new twist in a career which could never be described as comfortable and formulaic: ten of the twelve tracks on this disc are based on the orchestral works of the French composer Claude Debussy. This is not the first time that Debussy and electronica have met, Japanese musician and writer Isao Tomita brought forth moog-fest 'Snowflakes Are Dancing' in the seventies and acknowledged the same musical inspiration. The long winter in Tromso has resulted in another signal work for Geir Jenssen's catalogue, one which grows steadily and insistently on the listener until its sonorities and synaesthetics lock you into an immersive soundscape. The music has lost none of its diaphanous drift and is at once evocative of both location and atmosphere. It might be a clichŽ, but a sense of place has always been present in the work of Biosphere. Once again, 'Shenzho'' somehow manages to construct a permafrosted arctic landscape yet imbue it with warmth, beauty and soul. Biosphere's most recent outings on 'Substrata', and 'Cirqu'' (a geomorpholigical term for a natural amphitheatre in the ice), used the sounds of cracking sheet-ice and fizzing wood stoves. Jenssen's approach has always been about sound sculpting and collage; he creates a tonal palette from natural and synthetic sources. Here on 'Shenzhou' the crackle comes from a slab of Decca Red Label Classics vinyl as the muted woodwinds, strings and brass from Debussy's various tone poems circle and twist themselves around Biosphere's sonic tectonic plates. Debussy's harmonic improvisation paved the way for the major musical upheavals of the 20th century. Perhaps best recognised for the wonderful sound poem 'La Mer', he became known as the Impressionist's composer. Impressionist painting typically included minute areas of detail which morphed into incredible colourfields when the whole of the canvas was viewed. Similarly, Debussy used the orchestra as a pulsing, living whole, the featured instrumentation adding points of colour in flashes and glints, with the entire work eventually emerging from the synergy between its component parts. This CD shifts and drifts and reveals itself as a thing of great depth and power. Beguilingly simple at first, it manages to insinuate itself into your life and take hold of your circuits. Biosphere has moved 'ambient music' to a different place and it's a wonderful thing to go along with the trip. 'Shenzhou' is an important example of two genres of music colliding, colluding and making perfect sense. It is a beautiful and searching work which should be owned by anyone who still wants to meditate and marvel with music. Buy it, get the cans upside your head, close your eyes, relax and float off downstream. AJ


An undoubted latter day ambient maestro Geir Jenssen new Biosphere LP takes him further into masterly ambient territories. Based on the work of Debussy, Shenzou, as with much of Jenssen's work invites favourable comparisons with both Eno and Tomita. His ability to create tension and dynamism with the most sparse of structures and beatless excursions is superb. Ignore those TV ads, this is the real chill out. (Teletext- Leftfield Column - 31.5.02)


ALBUM OF THE WEEK, 7 Mag (UK):
 
Since the release of "Patashnik", on the R&S offshoot Apollo, in 1994, plenty of artists have tried, but none have come close, to making such overwhelming ambient music, as Norway's Geir Jenssen, alias Biosphere. With "Shenzou" he's made another classic, pushing the bounderies further, with orchestral like compositions, layering electronic waves, taking the listener to pastures new, as you gently drift on a sea of mixed emotions. With titles such as "Spindrift", "Heatleak", "Twooceanplateau" & "Thermalmotion", this is definitely not the hard sell package tour, of chill out Ibiza comps, "Shenzhou" is much much more than that, it's the open mindedness & isolation of Biosphere, living inside the Artic Circle. [Dean Thatcher]


The Milk Factory (Norway):

After ten years of recording as Biopshere, Tromso born Geir Jenssen has firmly established himself at the forefront of experimental ambient music. Although his early releases still bore the marks of dance music, his music has now evolved towards more atmospheric structures, where beats are scarce and environmental sounds are essential. Patashnik, his second album, was already shaping what would become the Biosphere sound, but it is not until his third opus, the seminal Substrata, originally released on All Saints Records in 1997 and recently reissued by Touch as a double album, that Jenssen really started exploring the immense possibilities of ambient music the way Brian Eno did in the eighties with his Ambient series. He now comes back after two years of silence with a new album, almost entirely based on orchestral works by French classical composer Claude Debussy. One of the most important French composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Claude Debussy was very often associated with the impressionist movement and symbolist writers, and his non-conformist tonal structures still inspire many musicians. Probably better known for his orchestral works, including PrŽlude A l'Aprs-midi D'Un Faune and La Mer, Debussy was very influenced by the work of Russian composers such as Borodin or Mussorgsky, and traces of eastern music can be found in a few of his compositions. Geir Jenssen experiments on Shenzhou with similar elements, weaving his distinctive near-beatless soundscapes around recurring patterns throughout, superposing them on Debussy's own orchestrations. The title track, which opens the album, slowly introduces the multiple elements of this work, reverently contrasting them to establish a perfect balance of impressions. These diverse components are echoed in turn in each track, placing them in different perspectives. Jenssen acts as an impressionist painter himself, applying little touches which, heard individually, do not equal to them heard in context, contributing to producing sonic effects and auditory illusions. If Houses On The Hill or Path Leading To The High Grass confront these warm soundscapes with isolationist percussions, the remaining tracks are entirely devoid of rhythmic structures, Jenssen relying instead on more subtle sound organisations to create movement. With this visionary record, Geir Jenssen proves once more that he is the most talented musician around able to create such beautiful and intense music out of arid sources. By associating himself with the musical genius that was Debussy, not only does he emulate his own work, but also give a whole new dimension to the work of the French composer. [5 Stars]


The Sheffield Telegraph (UK):

Chill-out music might have been last year's thing but Geir Jenssen from Tromso in Norway takes it on to a totally different level with beautiful, chilled-out ambient beats and textures that give his music a timeless quality. Ten of the tracks are based on fragments from the orchestral works of Claude Debussy. He would surely have approved. Jenssen's best since the amazing Cirque.


Muzik (UK):

Biosphere's Gier Jenssen is 'the daddy' of Norwegian electronica. But rather than beat you about the head he soothes you into submission with gentle orchestral sounds ('Shezou' is based on the works of Claude Debussy), ominous pagan muzak and deceptive simplicity. Like telling ghost stories in a remote and unfamiliar place, it's somehow scary and comforting. **** [Tom Mugridge]


Modern Dance (UK):

I always look forward to a new album by Geir Jenssen, because he was one of the original pioneers of the ambient scene. This release uses the orchestral work of Claude Debussy as a starting block and combines the sound texture in a most unusual way. There is a tendency to keep upping the volume, as it never really sounds loud enough. When the floor starts shaking in response to the bass notes, it is only then that you realise that your amplifier is dissipating a hell of a lot of watts. Not really music in the normal sense, as a beat, melodies and rhythms are not present, but the overall texture of the sound is stunning. He was born inside the Arctic Circle and his music exhibits an icy feel, yet any warmth generated is indeed extremely subtle. From the slow fade in of the opening bars of the title track to the marvellous finale, you won't find a much better ambient album to include in your collection. If I were to choose a highlight, the obvious track would be Ancient Campfire, where the crackling of a fire is looped to perform the basis of an exceptionally haunting theme. Sheer brilliance. [brooky]


Touching Extremes (net):

Geir Jenssen's treatments (in 10 of the 12 tracks of this magnificent CD he works on Debussy's samples) gave life to a soundscape that's ethereal and deep at the same time, always transcending to poetic imagination and bringing out auras of highly spiritual values. I can't find the words for "Shenzhou"'s gentle beauty; it's like observing a collection of pure crystals surrounded by a light fog or recollecting childhood memories while watching out of the window at late afternoon. You can't call this music "ambient" or something else, just listen silently and let your soul speak. I rarely find myself so touched and moved, but - during listening - I just had to turn to my wife and see her wide-open eyes to have a confirmation this is indeed a very special release. [MASSIMO RICCI]


Side Line (Belgium)

A new Biosphere is on the way The Norwegian master of ambient, Geir Jenssen, strives already back with a new full length of Biosphere entitled “Shenzhou”. This new masterpiece has been mainly based on the orchestral works of the French composer Claude Debussy. And this is what our main reviewed Deranged Psyche had to say about it: "The result is already a fascinating and unique voyage through the imaginary fields of our unconscious. The album remains quiet, but an icy and frightening blast runs through the compositions. This is a new essential album released on Touch."


Pro 7 [Germania]:

Biosphere Shenzou Veršffentlichung: 03.06.2002 Nach Formeln und Erwartungshaltungen hat der Norweger Geir Jenssen nie gearbeitet, Biosphere blieb stets sein Projekt fŸr anspruchsvolle Elektronik-Kompositionen. Sein neues Album "Shenzou" bezieht sich auf den Komponisten Claude Debussy, beziehungsweise verwendet dessen Notenwerk als Basis fŸr Biospheres Klangmanipulationen. Dies ist nicht das erste Mal, das neue Electronica auf Debussy trifft, - von Tomitas "Snowflakes Are Dancing" aus den 70ern, bis hin zu Art Of Noises Hommage "The Seduction Of Claude Debussy" haben sich moderne KŸnstler immer wieder inspirieren lassen. Vor einer Dekade fand sich Biosphere zwischen KŸnstlern wie Aphex Twin oder Orbital in den Regalen der Schallplattenfachgeschþfte wieder, schlie§lich verfeinerte man gemeinsam das Revolutionsmodell "Techno". Jedoch war es ein Kennzeichen der 90er, Stršmungen zu adaptieren und zu assimilieren: die Jeansmarke Levis verpflichtete das StŸck "Novelty Waves" von Biosphere fŸr einen Werbespot, und auf einmal fand sich der gestern noch im Underground gehandelte KŸnstler in den europþischen Verkaufscharts wieder. Ein Wendepunkt fŸr Geir Jenssen. Schon die nþchste Veršffentlichung "Substrata" verzichtete weitgehend auf Dance-Rhythmen, respektive auf Rhythmik per se. Stattdessen eroberte Biosphere andere Felder. Was Brian Eno einst als "Ambient" auf die musikalische Landkarte brachte, sollte hier eine modernisierte Re-Definition erfahren. Klangrþume wurden gešffnet, von denen man nicht ahnte das sie existieren, Sounds an die Grenzen der Hšrschwellen vertieft, und emotionale Landschaften mit minimalen Mitteln gezeichnet, so dass die Vorlþuferalben "Cirque" und "Substrata 2" von Presse wie Musikliebhabern als moderne Klassiker gehandelt werden. "Shenzou" macht trotz aller innewohnenden Individualitþt keine Ausnahme und reiht sich an seine beide Vorgþnger. Statt der fŸr unsere Hšrgewohnheiten bekannten Klþnge zaubert Geir Jenssen neue Tšne aus den Tiefen seiner elektronischen Gerþte, die gleichsam schroff wie wunderschšn sein kšnnen. Zwar verletzt die Komposition nie das þsthetische Hšrempfinden, aber ist doch gerade Meilen von den Produkten des New-Age und der Esoterik entfernt, die mit gleichfšrmigem Schšnklang gemeinhin nachhaltig langweilen. Auch ist man auf Distanz zu den Ÿblichen folkloristischen Klischees, wenngleich ein gewisser "nordischer" Hauch aus den Lautsprecherboxen zu flie§en scheint. Kurzum, das Album sucht nach intelligenten Hšrern, die sich gerne mit Musik intensiv und ausdauernd auseinander setzen, und zweifelsohne wird der versprŸhte Charme des Albums ein solches Publikum einnehmen. Impressionismus, Purismus, Genie und Erneuerung, ein Jahrhundert nach Debussy!


Brainwashed.com (net)

This is Geir Jenssen's third Biosphere album in as many years for the UK's two decade strong Touch label. At first glance there appears to be several unrelated elements at play: the title is the name of a Chinese unmanned spacecraft, the track titles reference miscellaneous things, the digipack artwork is seemingly random photos (though typical for Touch) and inside it says that the first ten of the dozen tracks are based on the orchestral works of early 20th Century French impressionist composer Claude Debussy. Playing those ten tracks doesn't clarify the contradictions, but it does reveal a tightly focused continuum. Here Jenssen's arctic ambience is quite minimal and possibly darker and deeper than ever before. Low end currents and pink noise vapor trails create melodies and mysteries. Meanwhile, rhythmic bumps and looped strains of what I presume is Debussy orchestra are occasionally weaved in. The final two tracks are indeed different but also complementary to the Debussy inspired suite. Altogether, 'Shenzou' is austere and simply another eerily beautiful ambient escape courtesy of Biosphere and Touch. [Mark Weddle]


Boudisque Online (The Netherlands)

We schrijven het jaar 2202. De stad Tromso in Noorwegen is getroffen door een natuurramp. Het sneeuwt er continu, alle wegen zijn verdwenen onder een honderden kilometers lange ijsvlakte, de zon is al jaren niet meer door het dikke grijze wolkendek gekomen en alle inwoners hebben huis en haard moeten verlaten. Tenminste, op één na: de heer G. Jenssen. Het lukt hem om te overleven in zijn studio met veel blikvoer en zijn muziekinstrumenten. Met als enige uitzicht de grijs/witte sneeuw, produceert hij zeer donkere soundscapes waar je uiteraard niet echt vrolijk van wordt. Uit zijn collectie klassieke cd's sampelt hij Claude Debussy en vermengt dit met zijn eigen electronica. Dansen heeft de heer Jenssen ook geen zin meer in, dus beats zijn ver te zoeken. Zo donker en duister heeft muziek zelden geklonken en het is jammer dat dit soort prachtige muziek de studio van deze kluizenaar niet uitkomt. Tot zover de fictie, nu de realiteit: het is 2002. De nieuwe Biosphere is uit, 200 jaar te vroeg gemaakt. Fictie wordt werkelijkheid. Wat een cd...


The Wire (UK):

Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere often appears to need a creative cue, if not a concept, to kickstart an album. One inspiration for the glacial textures of his first set for Touch, Cirque (2000) was the story of the ill-fated Chris McCandless, who hitchhiked to Alaska in April 1992, skimped on is food supply, and was found dead four months later. Last year, Touch also reissue his 1997 quiet classic, Substrata, in a lavishly packaged, remastered and expanded version, which came out of a climbing trip he made in the Himalayas. But, far from the great outdoors, a French composer seeded his latest album, Shenzhou: the first ten tracks, confess the minimal sleevenotes, were inspired by the orchestral works of Claude Debussy. It's a testament to Jenssen that throughout the set Debussy's influence is always felt explicitly, even as it never threatens to overwhelm the production as a whole. The classical source material is frozen, sampled and looped, like an audio Polaroid, into short one- or two-bar segments of woodwind, strings and the occasional harp. These central motifs, repeated mesmerically, form the bedrock of a series of lovingly crafted atmospheres and zones, around which Jenssen pumps dense clouds of beatless ambience, ominously rumbling bass notes and endlessly shifting, impressionistic textures. Similar but never the same, the effect, over expanding repetitions, is lie watching the infinite variations of ripples in water.Jenssen still resides in Tromso, 30 miles inside the Arctic circle on the northern coast of Norway. No surprise, then, that critics astutely picked up on the 'iciness' of the sound of the albums he made for the R&S offshoot Apollo in the early 90s. On this showing, though, the overall feel is more pastoral and warm, a quality alluded to in track titles like "pathleadingtothehighgrass" and "greenreflections", and the CD artwork's photos of leaves, water, skies. Partly due to the disc's classical sound palette, perhaps, the rustic imagery makes more sense here than on other recent 'folksy' electronic releases. If the textures of Shenzhou don't exactly grab the attention, they do mirror the natural world with unusual subtlety. [Jerome Maunsell]


Splendidzine (USA):

It's hard not use terms like icy, frigid and desolate to describe the output of Geir Jenssen's Biosphere, when you consider the fact that this master of electro-ambience resides in his birthplace of Tromso, Norway -- which rests four hundred miles north of the Arctic circle. While it's hard to tell whether this sound should be attributed to the annual deprivation of sunlight during the long winter stretches that invade the far north, or simply to Jenssen's private nature, which is abetted through his great distance from cultural quarters, Biosphere's sound is full of claustrophobic beauty, of inward contemplation, and a clarity of artistic vision seemingly borne from such a unique environmental milieu. With Shenzhou, Jenssen lays out a conceptual framework upon which his organic compositions grow and thrive -- namely the scratchy recordings of orchestral works from Claude Debussy, which share Biosphere's kinship with the elusive qualities of the natural world. Samples of Debussy's arrangements form the backbone of ten of the twelve tracks that appear here: somnambulant rhythms slide along amorphous sonic textures that often approximate the imagined sounds of howling winds and cracking glaciers. At times, Debussy's disembodied string sections are transformed into the bitter lamentations of a spectral choir, fooling the listener into hearing the echoes of a human voice. Most exciting on Shenzhou is the rare incorporation of percussive elements from the original Debussy sources -- tracks such as "PathLeadingtotheHighGrass" have a visceral energy that cannot necessarily be assigned to the gliding, shapeless over- and under-tones that comprise much of the other compositions. Of the two tracks unconcerned with Debussy's work, "Bose-EinsteinCondensation" is the most striking; while it lacks the acute ambient textures that pervade the album, it instead incorporates abrupt piano figures with skittery, cut-up digital effects that immediately recall Oval's Dok. This sonic template is further explored on the epic album closer "GravityAssist", which shares qualities with both the recent electro-acoustic works of Robert Hampson's Main project and Eno's early ambient material. Jenssen's aesthetic strategies seem built upon a system of repetition (of Debussy's original works) that exposes form as form, alerting the listener to the rigidity of Debussy's arrangements in contrast to the floating atmospherics of the Biosphere sound. This brings about an awareness of Debussy's orchestrations as artifacts and infuses Jenssen's ambient structures with a timelessness that can be attributed to the source material's rich musical legacy. Shenzhou embraces this historical significance and reconstructs Debussy's classical concerns in a contemporary form that broadens the horizons of modern electronic music. [Mike Baker]


lastplanetojakarta.com (web):

My increasingly voracious twin obsessions of purity and obsolescence lead me this week to two albums that could hardly be more different from one another. One's a metal album, and I'll get to that in a few minutes. The other is Biosphere's Shenzhou, on the not-too-terribly-obscure Touch label out of England, and you've really got to listen to it. And I do mean Òlisten.' Biosphere makes electronic music of a type usually answering to the name 'ambient,' but I don't really know what that means. When Brian Eno invented the genre with his 1978 Music for Airports, he said something about wanting to make Òenvironmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres,' and that the music he had in mind Òmust be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular...it must be as ignorable as it is interesting. Nobody apart from the chin-stroking hordes of Roxy Music fans really paid him much heed (the chin-stroking hordes, naturally, were suitably impressed: and I am not mocking them: I count myself among their numbers), and by 1983 you could find his lovely Editions EG volumes in cutout bins here and there, headed for the Blind Silence that will eventually greet us all. All movements being from their inceptions quite doomed, it came as no surprise to see that Ambient Music (Eno's capitals, not mine) hadn't come to much. But then technology became more accessible, and the rules of play changed a little. In the UK, there were some reportedly thrilling experiments in the nightclub-as-social-event. Channels of music distribution experienced an opening-up. (They have since snapped shut again.) Suddenly everybody had a computer, and the KLF made an album called Chill Out, and some dance acts (I have in mind mainly the Psychic Warriors of Gaia, but there were a thousand others) started to make music that was equally suited for dancing or for talking over while it played at low volumes: mood pieces; Mantovani on silicon; background ivory-tinkling from the near future. In the years that followed, a very loosely-knit underground of artists & listeners formed, slowly and anonymously; it was a community where audience & artist tended, by and large, to be the same people; and, save for a brief moment when the press was bending over backwards to announce that electronic music Had Really Arrived (in case you missed it, this coincided with one of Madonna's producers discovering the classic 808 sound), it managed to keep itself mainly below the radar, where all good things thrive. Which bring us to Biosphere's Shenzhou, which per the suitably spartan liner notes contains ten tracks Òbased on the orchestral works of Claude Debussy' (it's nowhere near as pretentious as it sounds) plus two more, and is packaged in a simply gorgeous three-panel digipak. It is ambient electronic music: no doubt about it. It is practically subliminal. You have to force yourself to listen to it, or else it recedes not only into the background but into the unseen infrastructure that supports the very background itself. It's a lot of loops and repeating themes; its bass tones are sea-deep bubbles that shy away from inflection like moles avoiding the sun; none of the songs contain any melodic development of any kind (which, interestingly enough, was actually part of Debussy's gift to music: a loosening of the restraints that held melodies in check). All of them are utterly and equally entrancing. Usually our modus operandi here at Last Plane to Jakarta is to single out a song for close examination and then see what it has to say for itself, but to isolate any one moment from Shenzhou's twelve glimpses of the Schumann resonance would be to miss the point completely. These songs float like clouds over a listener, changing the temperature and lighting of the room without calling attention to themselves. And I love all this; some of it's as flatly, quietly riveting as a Takemitsu piece; but for me, it's pushed right over the top by the knowledge that nobody besides you and me cares, not even a little. ÒYou and me,' in this case, being the tiny handful of people who'll ever hear Shenzhou. We may care; I know I do; when I put this record on late at night, it seems like I've been waiting all my life for it. But it's on its way into the shadows, and history will swallow it whole. And this, then, brings us clean across the field of play to Annihilatus's Blood and War, which is by no means ambient at all (although I do have a theory about metalcore being a trance-oriented music, which I'll go into more detail about if enough people want to hear about it: let me know), but which is comparable in obscurity to Shenzhou. [John Darnielle]


Echoes On-Line (Germany):

Das Urteil Musiker und ihre geografische Herkunft - ein wichtiger Zusammenhang? Der Trend sagt eindeutig ja. Island als das Kuba der Generation Cordjacke, Sigur R—s als der Buena Vista Social Club einer sich nach Romantik sehnenden Studentenschaft. Im Vergleich dazu: Norwegen. Geir Jenssen lebt dort, wo dich die Kþlte regelrecht zerfrisst. Wer wŸrde mit ihm tauschen wollen? FŸr lþnger als zwei, drei Wochen, meine ich - na? Dachte ich's mir doch. ãShenzhouÒ aber ist ein bemerkenswert originelles Werk, dem man die Abgeschiedenheit des Machers und Denkers dahinter regelrecht anzuhšren glaubt. Und das gibt in Zeiten des unaufhšrlich klingelnden Mobiltelefons von vornherein Sympathiepunkte. Obwohl sich Jenssen diesmal - man verzeihe mir diese Wortwahl - auf durchaus dŸnnem Eis bewegt: Der Nachfolger von ãSubstrata 2Ò nþmlich ist dem Impressionisten Claude Debussy gewidmet, die Musik von ãShenzhouÒ zum Gro§teil - inklusive Samples - deutlich von den orchestralen Kompositionen des franzšsischen KŸnstlers inspiriert. Anderen hþtte es das Genick gebrochen. Jenssen allerdings besitzt genug Sensibilitþt und Eigenstþndigkeit, um Kitsch gar nicht erst in Frage kommen zu lassen. Ein beruhigend erdiges GrundgefŸhl, das an die alten Ambient-Blaupausen ˆ la ãMusic for AirportsÒ erinnert, begleitet den Hšrer durch zwšlf angenehm unverkrampft arrangierte StŸcke, die man am besten - Klischee hin oder her - nach Mitternacht bei gedþmpftem Licht auf sich wirken lassen sollte. So gelingt dem Projekt Biosphere mit seiner arktischen, aber doch warm umschlie§enden Musik das unaufdringliche Vermitteln von Klþngen und Bildern zwischen den unterschiedlichen Ebenen.[Kai Ginkel]


Dusted (USA):

Classical leanings

The fundamentally disparate worlds of electronic and classical music have, on occasion, meshed to form truly inspirational music. Brian Eno set the standard with Discreet Music in 1975. The Stars of the Lid made stirring use of strings on last year’s The Tired Sound of…. Bjork has made a living out of the stuff for over a decade. For every success, however, there is a Moby song…literally. The tiny bald hypocrite has “scored” enough wretch-inducing string sections to cast the entire concept into the realm of melodrama, overshadowing many more talented musicians with his contrived crescendos. The formulated assemblage of strings is hardly a rare occurrence in classical music, but artists like Moby cement the misperception that violins exist merely as a tool for emotional manipulation. Biosphere lies content at the other end of the spectrum. Biosphere, a.k.a. Geir Jenssen, a graduate of the micro-house school of minimalism, is one of the world’s premier ambient composers. His last two albums, Substrata and Cirque on the Touch label, rank among the best of their years thanks to their overwhelming attention to detail and texture. Jenssen’s latest, Shenzhou, at least matches the success of his previous two outings and does so through a sonic quilt of horns, reeds, percussion and, yes, strings.

Jenssen’s compositions on Shenzhou samples sounds from the great 19th century composer Claude Debussy, resulting in a pastoral warmth previously unheard in the Biosphere catalog. Jenssen composes most of his music in the Arctic Circle in his home in Tromso, Norway, a city that sits at 69° latitude, 18° longitude, or roughly the equivalent of Siberia or Alaska, so green fields of sunshine are not immediately available as tangible stimuli. Yet, with Debussy’s lush samples in hand, Jenssen constructs a greenhouse of sound so vivid, you can almost see the steam rising out into the arctic air.

Inside Shenzhou, songs pulse with the urgency and unpredictability of Mother Nature. “Path Leading to the High Grass” almost explodes with tension as Jenssen’s soft backdrop wrestles with Debussy’s staccato flutes. “Ancient Campfire” crackles with an audible vinyl hiss while overlapping clarinets descend steadily into the smoke like moths submitting to the flame. There’s an uneasiness apparent throughout the record and Jenssen tightropes the threshold between ephemeral calm and impending doom with incredible poise, never toppling over into either spectrum. Shenzhou captures the moment when the clouds start to gather, but never gives into thunder and lightning. “Green Reflections,” the last of ten pieces composed via Debussy, is perhaps the most reassuring of the collection, a sunrise of synths and clarinets, but Jenssen immediately changes direction with the eerie underwater piano of “Bose-Einstein Condensation.” The abrupt shift doesn’t ruin “Green Reflections’” beauty as much as it throws the serenity into question. The same can be said for Shenzhou as a whole.

Jenssen has once again created a contemplative masterpiece of texture and detail. Contrasting Debussy’s orchestral genius with his own trademark ambience was a brilliant idea and an innovative, if subtle, use of classical underpinning in electronic music. [Otis Hart]


Side-Line (Belgium):

A new album by Biosphere means a very particular event in the world of ambient! With "Shenzhou", Geir Jenssen goes on with the exploration of the limits of atmospheric music in a way that has already differentiates him (sic) from the beginning with all other artists in this genre! Ten tracks of this album are based on the orchestral works of Claude debussy. Well, I'm not really familiar with th work of the french composer, but I can't really recognise any reference to classical music... except the way the tracks have been conceived in the mind of the author! You can hear different parts running through the s piece while all pieces together creates (sic) a unity! Behind the kind of soundscapes certainly lies an imaginary vision that has been possibly inspired by the oeuvre of Debussy. This work sounds rather cold and a bit anguishing (sic), like the immense fields of the high North covered with snow during a cold winter. This imaginary picture has been transposed into a sound-picture full of varied sound manipulations. I've always loved the way G. Jenssen mix his sound (sic), like it permanently remains in the background. There's no single bombastic burst! Everything remains under control and precisely this background feeling creates the splendour of Biosphere and the new album. This is the kind of record you have to discover and enjoy as a long during (sic) single piece. Biosphere remains for sure one of the absolute and uncontestable leading forces of what we've called ambient! (DP: 7/8)


VITAL (The Netherlands):

Transmissions from another time and another place. That would be the shortest description of Biosphere's music. Geir Jenssen's sonic explorations lead him this time to Claude Debussy's orchestral works in the first ten pieces. It seems to me, he even uses orchestral sounds lifted from old records. Jenssen's music is rather simple: multi-layered static sounds (loops, samples, synths) above which he adds a small rhythmic sound sources. He lets his sources go loose and everything spins for a while. Slowly he twists a few knobs, changing the colouring of the music a little bit and the moves on to the next piece. It's minimal music indeed, so simple and yet so beautifully done. With great care these elements are placed next to each other and they interfere with each other and slowly beautiful tapestries of sound enroll before your eyes. 'Shenzhou' is a beautiful follow up to 'Cirque', however we should carefully ask Geir: "what's next?". It's likely possible he could craft another ten or so of these works, but were will it move in terms of development. (FdW)


Matiere Brut (France):

Originaire de Tromsø, Geir Jenssen sculpte patiemment depuis une quinzaine d’année la matière sonore. Après ses débuts avec le groupe Bel Canto, son tournant plus techno sous le nom de Bleep, il fonde finalement Biosphere en 1991 et, tel un aventurier solitaire, se lance à la recherche de l’arctic sound avec l’album Microgravity (Apollo / R&S – 1992). En quelques années, il se forge un style propre, voire un nouveau courant musical, influençant de nombreux nouveaux venus dans la scène musicale électronique. Peu à peu sa musique explore des territoires plus abstraits et radicaux, sa palette de sons se veut plus minimale, plus complexe et atteint sa maturité à partir de l’album Substrata (Origo sound – 1997, puis Touch – 2001). Son dernier album en date, Shenzhou, nous plonge dans une relecture de travaux de Debussy. A partir de quelques samples du maître, il crée un environnement sonore délicat et enivrant. Les basses omni-présentes font vibrer l’auditeur(trice) de tout son être, le (la) noyant dans un espace intemporel. Dans ce maelström tourbillonant, apparaissent, évoluent et s’évanouissent, quelques sons subtils et labiles, aussi fragiles qu’une fine couche de glace prête à céder sous le poids de l’auditeur(trice), pour l’emporter toujours plus loin dans l’éther. [Yann Hascoet]



Bad Alchemy (Germany):

der khle Klanglandschaftswizard aus dem norwegischen Troms, hat hier auf zehn der zwlf Tracks den orchestralen Impressionismus Claude Debussys remixt und recyclet. Er lsst, durch Vinylknistern gleichzeitig verstrkt und antiillusionistisch gebrochen, Klangpartikel und kurze Motivfragmente vermutlich aus 'La Mer', 'Nocturnes' oder 'Prlude l'aprs-midi d'un faune' noch minimalistischer und statischer flirren und flimmern und erzeugt ein nahezu arkadisches Chill-out-Ambiente, aus dem trumerische Blue-Afternoon-Stimmungen emanieren, die der Touch-sthetiker Wozencroft mit blau getnten Fotos von Himmel, Wasser und gemasertem Holz kongenial mittrgt.


sonicproduct.com (USA):

Since 1995 and my first exposure to Biosphere I have been a deep listener and have not once ever dismissed one of Geir Jenssen’s releases. Last one on the table was the two CD remaster of Substrata with the soundtrack to “Man with a Movie Camera” to accompany. When Substrata was released I flagged it as the greatest ambient album ever recorded… to this day that still holds true. That being said, I approached my first listening of Shenzhou with nothing shy of the highest expectations.

What I’m told here is that the first 10 tracks are based on the orchestral works of Claude Debussy, who I now have to investigate thoroughly. The 11th is Biosphere through and through. Now is where being a writer and being a listener clash. I’m listening to “Path Leading to High Grass”, my favorite track, right now while sitting in front of my computer. Not only am I here with a light on, at night, with a fan blowing 90 degree air into a 95 degree room, but in front of a computer attempting to feel these songs and accurately pass these feeling on to you. The responsibilities of the writer dull the privileges of the listener and the reader who doesn’t experience first hand, suffers most.

If I had my pick of the perfect listening place for this album, it would be drifting on a raft down the Hudson River through the halls of New York late at night. The mountains to my aft, the red city glow perma-sunset of Manhattan on the horizon. No need for a anything to reproduce the recording, rather just let it billow from star to star and let me catch the echoes I need. That seems to be exactly how this music was captured anyway.

As introduced before, Geir’s recordings hide at the deep end of the volume knob and the lower end of the sound field. This is not loud music by any stretch, at the same time is insulted as back ground music. The gap Shenzhou fills lays between the plateaus of complete silence and those moments when you can hear music that isn’t there. A soft bassy hum rolls around with airy textures driving by, slowly a string or piano key speeds up from behind, pulls over the airy texture and writes it a ticket.

All over this record is perfect mixtures of the Biosphere ambiance and Substrata like tones we’re all locked into bed with, but the new introduction to the family is the influence of Debussy. The front seat of each song carries quite beautiful classical elements and share breath with every tone and texture underneath.

Writing this is obviously a slight premature as it still requires deep study from me. Biosphere is the last artist I’d cheapen with only a few thousand listens, so I’m still sentenced to a long quite time with this album. Bottom line though, not being exposed to Biosphere’s sounds, atmospheres and sonic images is true crime for any one with a pair of ears, knowing Geir’s work and not following up with time spent on Shenzhou is that much worse. [Kyle Godbey]


Luna Kafe (USA):

Assembled from looping scratches of his old red-label Claude Debussy records, Geir Jenssen, in isolation up in Tromsø, Norway, has also spent considerable time swimming with his own heartbeat dans La Mer frigide. The warm crackling analogs of that vinyl have surely wrapped themselves around his small white shape here, the oboes and strings curling in as well, as loose sheets of paper might in feeding the diminutive interior campfire that must somehow fend off the ever-burgeoning deep blue chill of the waters surrounding. How he keeps the spaciously strewn embers glowing even as they plunge so deep into the Arctic Ocean is amazing in and of itself, warming the waters as it sinks further and further into iced, unknown depths of the dark, pressurized body. Small bubbles of oxygen stately stream toward the surface in tiny release. Jenssen's flares burn hazy, heavenly paths through the darkness, fallout from the spaced, frozen stars as above, so the unfathomable below. The bass resonates, smoldering like a phosphorescent jellyfish between the woodwind timbers of sunken ships so black and stark near the ocean floor, with thin slivers of fish circling through their barnacled bones. Beacons get lost, grateful for the deep sleep approaching. Submerged lights, fibrillations of both wave and swimming particles, are emitted from the deepest, most chillingly remote blackness. This glows the entire trajectory down, illuming the furthest boundaries of the listening body's extremities, providing a guiding light even in the most frigid of isolation tanks.

Chronicart.com (France):

Un petit tube et puis s’en va. On dit souvent qu’il n’y a pas de deuxième carrière pour les groupes dont la carrière a été lancée par une pub Levi’s. Biosphere a failli confirmer la règle. Lancé par le jean à poche à capote, on découvrait en 1998 Geir Jensen le norvégien, l’ex Bel Canto devenu techno. Son Novelty waves endiablé lançait la vaguelette "arctic sound", mélange de rythmes squelettiques rendus cassants par le gel et d’illustrations sonores faites de vent, d’eau, de vide. Cassé -ou lassé- par la réussite, Biosphere a abandonné les pistes de danses et les rythmes qui l’avait rendu célèbre. Il est remonté toujours plus haut pour faire de ses disques autant de carnets de croquis du grand Nord. Epurée, sa musique parle désormais du soleil qui ne se couche jamais et des glaciers qui fondent. C’est un monde élémentaire sans réelle aspérité où se croisent basses sourdes, rythmes mangés par l’espace et la distance, lucioles synthétiques qui donnent réalité à ses paysages et rares samples illustratifs. Ayant avec des disques comme Substrata ou Cirque vaincu tous les pôles, il lui restait l’avenir et le passé à découvrir. Il s’en charge avec son nouvel album Shenzou. Composé presque uniquement à partir des œuvres orchestrales de Claude Debussy, Biosphere arrange une infinité de samples tirés de ces disques. Il empile couche après couche, introduit échos et contrefaçons, fait un disque ambiant d’une puissance rarement égalée. Loin d’être neutres, on lit dans ces entrelacs de cordes et lointaines lignes de clarinettes l’espoir et l’attente, parfois même la menace. Il faut entendre les cordes de violoncelle battre la mesure dans Pathleading, ou se répandre sur un lit de basses surhumaines dans Thermalmotion. Et puis deux titres avant la fin, tout s’arrête. Debussy est parti et on est laissé seul avec des bouts de techno tournants tous seuls dans le vide -on remonte lentement à la surface. Reprenant à son compte cette idée de symphonie dans le rock chère à certains musiciens des années 1970, Geir Jenssen en offre l’équivalent au monde de la techno en 2002, le ridicule en moins, réussissant le tour de force d’instrumentaliser un grand compositeur, en le mettant au service d’une esthétique inhabituelle par sa force et sa nature. [Jean-Bernard André]

Pitchfork (USA):

"Shenzhou", aside from being the name of the Chinese manned-spaceflight vehicles, means "magic vessel", and I can't imagine a more apt description for Geir Jenssen's latest excursion into ambient deep listening. After following an Aphexian trajectory with his releases on Apollo, the ambient sublabel of Belgium's R&S Records, Jenssen veered from the padded sci-fi-inspired techno of Microgravity and Patashnik with 1997's Substrata, a genre-defining exploration of drifting soundscapes. Substrata remains for many the album that perfectly expresses the serenity and intensity of Arctic wildernesses, a landscape Jenssen knows intimately, having spent much of his life in the Norwegian Arctic Circle. In 2000, Jenssen nearly eclipsed the success of Substrata with Cirque, a frequently frosty submerging of excerpted conversations and found environmental sounds that rivals Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project in its rumbling, gauzy beauty. Jenssen again relies on found sound as source material for Shenzhou, but this time, the found sound is old vinyl recordings of the orchestral works of French Impressionist composer and ambient precursor, Claude Debussy. Jenssen lifts fragments of these scratched records in a similar manner as he did for Cirque's "Black Lamb Grey Falcon" and "Iberia Eterea".

The ten tracks (out of the dozen on the album) that follow this model all begin as a barely audible hum, like a small electrical transformer, out of which the dust-dappled loops of Debussy's woodwind, brass, and strings emerge, condense, and fade out into pink noise rustles. Unlike Steve Reich's phase pieces or Brian Eno's Discreet Music, though, Jenssen doesn't set his loops against each other to produce juxtapositions and piquant dissonance; he uses them to describe imagined terrain, at first glance monotonously flat and barren, but on concentration, replete with minute detailing. The overall effect of these pieces is a sense of immensity. The orchestral loops sound distant, abandoned in a vast wilderness, and strenuously battling against Arctic winds. Jenssen sets the listener down in this wilderness as an aloof observer, a witness to the music's futile struggles against entropic forces.

The two tracks not derived from Debussy share the same hypnotic aesthetic. The brief interlude "Bose-Einstein Condension" is a loop of piano chords lolloping in search of coherence, while "Gravity Assist" is a longer voyage into woofer-quaking low-frequency manipulation, bell-like drones, and contrails of subdued noise. I can't help but feel that these tracks fit awkwardly and break up the conceptual flow of the album. This, however, is a minor quibble given the power of this music. Shenzhou is unquestionably a magic vessel, but one that reveals its enchantment only to those who pay close attention. [Paul Cooper]

Stylus [USA]:

Taking his cues from the world's coldest, most remote regions, Geir Jenssen (AKA Biosphere) has recorded some of the loveliest atmospheric music of our time, bringing the listener on icy explorations, both tranquil and foreboding, of windswept sonic tundras. On 2000's Cirque, Jenssen's aural journeys were more literal than usual, with each song inspired by a different isolated locale.
For his latest album, Shenzhou, Biosphere turns away from geographic inspiration to delve into the music of composer Claude Debussy. Ten of the twelve tracks directly incorporate samples of Debussy's "impressionist" classical music, with Biosphere's warm drones and environmental swooshes surrounding the orchestrated loops. A rich vinyl hiss permeates the entire album, creating the impression that Jenssen is simply listening to his Debussy records on an old turntable and improvising around them-and perhaps he is, but the whole thing sounds so thoroughly integrated that it'd be hard to believe it.
The album, like all great ambient, flows by easily in the background if you're not paying attention, but closer inspection reveals a depth and complexity that the surface barely suggests. Portions of Debussy are chopped up and looped in tiny fragments, creating a rhythmic undercurrent that flows beneath the entire record. Often the loop is so tiny that the distinct string parts of the composer's pieces are squashed and blended into a blurry mush that is easily woven into the fabric of Biosphere's music.

Jenssen's non-sampled contributions to the album consist mainly of deep, subterranean bass tones and the distant whirr and crackle of electronics. On standouts like "Thermal Motion," the main instrument is the Debussy music-cut and spliced into a fluid stream that sounds more like an icy river than that the heat source evoked by its title. The album's best moment, "Ancient Campfire," is more true to its name, with subtle cymbal clicks and crackling vinyl creating an aural image of a night spent in the woods huddled around a dying fire.

Like most of the album, this track combines conflicting emotions to elicit subtle shadings of mood. The dread-inducing hum of these tracks is nearly countered by the lulling melodic sense. On "Path Leading to the High Grass," one of the few songs to incorporate percussive sounds, a muted bass drum pounds out a measured, ominous rhythm as fractured samples and insectile shaking flits across the surface of the track; it's one of the most active moments on the disc, creating a claustrophobic warmth out of chaos.

The subtle intertwining of Debussy's scores throughout this record provides a thematic and aural continuity between the individual tracks, helping the whole thing flow together nicely. Shenzhou is another fine offering from Biosphere; its delicate subtleties and sweeping beauty weave through your mind as elegantly as its disparate parts weave through each other. [Ed Howard]
 





Bookmat (Web):

A new album from Geir Jensson aka Biosphere is always a special event here at the Neck. This is not strictly a new album, but the usual  evocative Touch packaging and photography give it a whole new character. This double CD consists of the 'the finest ambient album of the 1990s' Substrata, originally released on All Saints in 1997, here in a freshly re-mastered version. Musically well beyond the confines of beauty, subtle, haunting, lush, stately - the type of music that takes you to so many different places. Classics in the truest sense. The second CD 'Man With A Movie Camera' is Geir's commision for the Tromsø International Film Festival of 1996 on a reworking of the Russian silent film with the same name dating back to 1929 from director Dziga Vertov. On this work Geir collaborates with Per Martinson aka Mental Override who also joined up with Biosphere as part of the 'Nordheim Transformed' piece on Rune Grammophon. To complete this astonishing set you then get extra tracks from the Japanese version of Substrata. Essential.

freg.org [net]:

To call Substrata a good album is an understatement. It has been described as one of the finest Ambient albums of the Nineties. As far as I'm concerned you can scrub out the bit about the Nineties. Biosphere, a.k.a. Geir Jenssen from Norway, has created some of the most amazing Ambient music I've heard in a very long time. Substrata is an album to play at full volume in sub-zero conditions. This re-release of Substrata is a lovingly-designed two CD edition containing two extra tracks that were released on the Japanese version of the album, along with the Man With a Movie Camera. In 1996 Geir Jenssen was asked to write a new soundtrack for Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent film of the same name, and hopefully one day the score and film will be placed together in some medium or other. The Japanese tracks are the only tracks on either CD that can be said to have a beat in any conventional electronic sense of the word. They are good mechanical forward moving Trance tracks. Apart from these the album is beat free. It pulsates slowly and statically. The music is beautifully still. Tracks like "The Things I Tell You" and "Chukhung" are made up of delicate hovering melodies. "Hyperborea" is as ice cold and austere as possible. "Sphere of No Form" is at points soft then harsh then soft again. Large Buddhist horns of infinite length obliterate the barely perceptible sound of the wind; in time the harsh endless echoed horns are themselves replaced by lush analogue ripples. The soundtrack for Man With A Movie Camera is haunting and colossal. It is a collected of wonderfully crafted soundscapes. Concrete sound mixes with pulsations, drifting distant voices, and dislocated moments of sampled music. Superb stuff.


adverse effect vol 2 no. 5 (UK):

Can Norway's Geir Jenssen elevate his Biosphere to a level any higher...? For over a decade now, he has consistently managed to find new glacial corners to explore with this magnificent platform which now favours collating sheets of sound together over the beat-driven material of his earlier work. However, it's not all shimmering icicles and Thomas Köner-esque post-industrial scrapings 'n' musings on display here. Rather, traces of Jenssen's original post-techno ripples can still be found 'neath the finely crafted filmic swathes, dialogue snippets, occasional gtr strums and archaic samples. Absolutely everything on this double-set hangs together sublimely and in a manner rarely found in such circles at the moment. The very fact that digi-exploration has moved into different realms during more recent years has actually afforded Jenssen the opportunity to take his own pursuits even further. Everything might suggest a modicum of familiarity on the surface but, clichés aside, repeated listenings reveal apparently different patterns of sound every time. And, sure, the very fact that each and every Biosphere release seems to document several degrees of genuine evolution speaks for itself, really. [RJ]


XLR8R, USA:

Geir Jenssen, a.k.a. Biosphere, released Substrata in 1997, an ambient album that went unnoticed by most, quietly sliding beneath the musical collective consciousness.Thankfully, the UK's Touch label has decided to unearth this gem and reissue it along with a second disc that include's Jenssen's soundtrack to the Dziga Vertov black-and-white classic film Man with a Movie camera. The music within is starkly beautiful, glacial and slow-paced in its movement, much like the scenery of Jenssen's native Norway. Piano chords drift over snowy banks of synths; melodic loops build, only to break off slowly and eventually reform. Occasional voices drift in and out of the mix, just at the edge of one's range of hearing. Lucid dreaming in the form of sound, immense and grandiose in its scope. [Brock Phillips]

The Wire, UK:

'Substrata' has quietly garnered a reputation as one of the last decade's notable Ambient recordings, and while this remastering does not diverge radically from the 1997 edition on All Saints - edges are softened, balance gently tweaked - having the excuse to listen to it anew reveals a logic often obscured by its subaquatic haze. Steeped in echo, 'Substrata' uses a healthy dose of ambient noise (airplane buzz, street sounds, bird calls) to flesh out its liquid lyricism; it treads the line between music and sound, but errs just on this side of music, returning again and again to deep, resonant melodies. But elsewhere Biosphere's temporal suspension, via cycling arpeggios and long, blurred sustain, updates classic Ambient music's indeterminacy with string laden pastoralism. Of the two bonus tracks included from the original Japanese edition, 'Eardurium', which revolves uneasily around a single focal point, shows Geir Jenssen at his most hypnotic, applying the trappings of Techno (metallic, repetative beats, four bar chord progressions) to an Ambient sound palette that slips mercurially into less recognisable terrain. The second CD features Biosphere's 1996 soundtrack (co-produced with Mental Overdrive's Per Martinsen) for Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent film, 'Man With A Movie Camera'. Like 'Substrata', with which it shares samples, the score makes generous use of field recordings, but it's more ominous and less melodic. When played along with a video of the film, it makes for a curious accompaniment, pitting Biosphere's mellifluous drones against Vertov's choppy montage. What's fascinating, in pairing the two, is the realisation that music so rarely has approximated cinematic syntax; it's disappointing then, that Biosphere's soundtrack doesn't hew to the language of cinema more closely. After Vertov's delicate tightrope walk between representation and non-representation, you wish for something less patently musical, and more like Chris Watson's field recordings. Of course, a jerry-rigged home viewing is bound to produce some fortuitous moments, entirely unplanned (and unrepeatable) given the difficulty of cuing the tracks precisely. Otherwise Biosphere's thousand league ambiance has always been too fluid to mimic Vertov's disjointed sequences. [Philip Sherburne]

Other Music, USA:

Two discs of the best work of Biosphere, the project (mostly) of Norwegian Geir Jenssen since 1991. "Substrata", originally released in 1997 on Eno's All Saints records, has been cited more than once as one of the most beautiful ambient albums ever recorded. Gentle and deep (and now remastered), it has a lot in common with Eno's own work, from the clearer parts (there's muted singing here and there, lots of softly echoing warm guitar and bamboo chimes), to the immersive soundscapes of innocent, not ominous drones and electronic gurgles. The second CD in this set is the 'soundtrack' to Dziga Vertov's 1929 classic abstract film "Man with a Movie Camera", that Biosphere executed as per the instructions left behind by Vertov. This is an essential bit of film as well as musical history -- Vertov imagined a musique concrete soundtrack in 1929 (!), but technology wasn't quite up to it yet. It consists of more deep hums, ship's whistles and altered church bells, the sounds of twenties nightclubs, jazz bands, industry and railroad yards fading in and out, words in a thick Russian accent. A fantastic recording, both historically and in sound alone --combined with Biosphere's best album, this package is as about as essential to those interested in the history of the avant-garde or just want something lovely to do yoga to. At the very least, this is the best Biosphere recording to have. [RE]

Brainwashed [net]:

Geir Jenssen's 1997 Biosphere album has been remastered and nicely re-packaged with a bonus disc for Touch. Disc 1 is "Substrata" proper and disc 2 is a new, previously unreleased, commissioned soundtrack for the 1929 Russian film "Man with a Movie Camera", plus the 2 beat infused bonus tracks from the Japanese edition of the album. Both discs, nearly an hour apiece, offer a continuous, deep ambient jigsaw puzzle - disc 2 being the noisier with a more urban/industrial aura. We slowly, willingly drift along through chilled out spaces and cityscapes, natural hums and environmental residues, electronic pads and blips, the clutter of metals and trinkets, disembodied voices and appropriated musical passages, synth strings and plucked/strummed strings ("Kobresia" in particular settles into a beautiful stringed stasis), softly malleted tones and some subtle rhythmic pulsations. Very soothing, very calming, very Arctic. Jenssen's reclusive Norwegian locale undoubtedly influences the vast, dark and cold nature of his music. But what's surprising to me is how emotionally cold much of it also seems despite it's surface beauty ... a sort of depressing, lonely void. That feeling overwhelms me here at times, but sometimes you want to feel that way, know what I mean? [Mark Weddle]

VITAL, The Netherlands:
 
I found the presence of Biosphere on Touch a bit odd. The ambientesque sound next to Rehberg & Bauer, Mika Vainio or John Duncan? The covers of Touch usually reflect the difference between technology (music) and landscape (cover photos), but with Biosphere this difference is no longer apperent. As a follow up to Cirque, and on the coincidence of the Touch series of concerts happening right now. This 2CD sees older works in print again. 'Substrata' is the follow up to Patashnik, which I thought was a brilliant album (it still is a landmark of ambient techno by the way). I never heard 'Substrata' the first time it was around, maybe I lost interest in ambient? Because both 'Microgravity' and 'Patashnik' were landmarks of techno meeting ambient, well or vice versa, 'Substrata' is a downright ambient album, using field recordings, stretched waves of synthetic sound, next to sampled acoustic instruments, such as guitars and piano's. Mellow stuff throughout, no beats here. I could not say if this is really taking a new stand on the throdden paths of ambient, but it's very nice work indeed. Maybe, after all, I didn't loose my interest in ambient... As I argumented (sic) a few weeks back, I have nothing with film, so I rarely see one, so I just know about the Dziga Vertov film 'Man With A Movie Camera', but I have never seen it. Vertov left instructions for the music to his silent film and Geir interpreted these for his soundtrack. This is the Biosphere that the adventurous listener in me likes to see. Intercepting with radio transmissions, or maybe even ghostly messages, who knows, sitting next to very minimal bass beats. The remaining two tracks on this CD were originally on the Japanese edition of Substrata and could be right of Patashnik. Full beat stuff, nice keyboard tunes and more radio.

Incursion [Canada]:

Substrata, Geir Jenssen's classic ambient album originally released by All Saints Records in 1997, gets the "remastered and repackaged with bonus material" treatment by Touch. The bonus material in question consists of Jenssen's soundtrack to Man With A Movie Camera, a Russian silent film from 1929 by Dziga Vertov, as well as two tracks originally released with the Japanese edition of Substrata. The soundtrack was originally commissioned for the Troms¿ International Film Festival in 1996, and is available here for the first time. Released as a 2CD set with beautiful packaging (courtesy of Jon Wozencroft and Heitor Alvelos), it seems a little strange that this should have been released at a time when the All Saints edition is still readily available. Substrata is a quintessential Biosphere record, and, along with the more recent Cirque CD (also on Touch) it is essential listening for any ambient fan; distinctive, dream-like atmospheres, slow rhythms and narratives from distant voices carry you through this opaque, icy sound world. The second disc, Man With A Movie Camera, uses a lot of the same source material used in Substrata (as in the vocal samples, for example, which if my ears are not deceiving me, are sourced from Twin Peaks), but the structures are more tight, periodically erupting into more energetic electro rhythms, matched by the arctic stillness that characterises so much of Biosphere's work. Purists should note that the original Substrata was not restructured or reworked for this release, just remastered, which also means that unless you're a die-hard Biosphere fan looking to own his complete works, this release probably won't serve much of a purpose if you already have the original. That being said, since its original release four years ago, Substrata has quickly become an ambient classic, owing to Jenssen's unique sound, a strange, compelling world of loneliness seen through a lens clouded by ice and snow. If you have yet to be introduced to his work, this is a perfect place to start. [Richard di Santo]

Pro 7 [Germany]:

Stell Dir vor, Du sitzt in Deinem KŸhlschrank. Zunþchst ist alles ganz still, doch dann rauscht es leise durch die Leitungen. Wasser tropft, gluckst und gefriert wieder. Entfernte Stimmen quatschen unverstþndlich vor sich hin. Jemand pocht von au§en mit einem Metallstab gegen das Gehþuse. Und dann surren Dir auch noch elektronische Loops aus dem GemŸsefach entgegen. Wenn Du jetzt denkst "Wie um alles in der Welt komme ich hier wieder raus?" - dann ist das arktische Elektronik-Doppelalbum "Substrata"/"Man With A Movie Camera" wohl eher nicht Dein Fall. Falls Du aber zu den Leuten gehšrst, die verrŸckt genug sind, das cool zu finden - dann sind die eisigen Klanglandschaften des norwegischen KŸnstlers Geir Jenssen alias Biosphere wohl genau das Richtige, um Deine Sinne zu sensibilisieren. "Ambient" - das dŸrfte wohl der passende Begriff fŸr diese Soundgebilde sein. Elektronik-Pionier Brian Eno stand hier Pate. Warum das ein Doppelalbum mit verschiedenen CD-Titeln ist? "Substrata" wurde ehemals 1997 veršffentlicht. Nun haben wir es mit den remasterten Aufnahmen zu tun: Leise Dubs verþndern sich minimal, gehen ineinander Ÿber. An einer akustischen Gitarre wird vertrþumt herumgezupft. Schemenhaft kŸndigt sich immer wieder neues Soundgeschwader an. NatŸrlich gaaanz leise. Und gaaanz soft. Manchmal klingt das recht esoterisch. Meistens aber eher minimalistisch. Konzentrieren wir uns aber auf CD2, "Man With A Movie Camera", die všllig neu ist: Ein digitales Orchester bittet zum Tanz (der wohl eher im Kopf stattfindet): Hin und wieder lþuten Kuhglocken, Wortfetzen jagen durchs Gerþuschgeflecht. In "Freeze Frames" dršhnt ein Presslufthammer, der zum hektischen Herzschlag mutiert. Eine Chansonette ˆ la Edith Piaf gibt irgendwo weit entfernt ein Lied zum Besten. "Manicure" beginnt mit plþtscherndem Wasser - dazu spielt im Nebenzimmer ein barockes Tanzorchester. Plštzlich zischt es laut und pausenlos. Unvermeidlich drþngt sich die Frage auf: "Oh Gott, habe ich zu Hause den Gashahn zugedreht?" Mitunter erwischt man sogar Hook-Lines. Und genau dann - wenn die ganze intellektuelle Avantgarde mal bei Seite geschoben wird - entwickelt sich "Man With A Movie Camera" zum genialen Minimal-Techno. Einiges klingt sogar symphonisch ("Endurium"). Biosphere macht es dem Zuhšrer nicht gerade leicht. Wenn Du Zeit und Lust hast, Dich auf eine neue Erfahrung einzulassen - dann besorge Dir dieses Album. Denn sich in den KŸhlschrank zu setzen und auf Gerþusche zu warten - das dŸrfte Dich ungleich teurer zu stehen kommen. (mip)

re:mote induction [UK]:

Four years after its original release, Biosphere's Substrata is this time released through Touch in a re-mastered format and with an additional CD containing the Man With A Movie Camera soundtrack and two bonus tracks that were originally released on the Japanese version of Substrata. Of course, the packaging has been redesigned and is now in keeping with the design work on recent Touch releases such as the Light compilation of work by Biosphere, Hazard and Fennesz. Disk 1 of this release is the Substrata album, one that is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Geir Jenssen's career so far. Listening to the album for the first time in a while I certainly found it pleasurable to be reacquainting myself with this release. For myself, I can't say for sure if this is the pinnacle; I can say it is a breathtaking album. The sound of the album as a whole could be easily considered to be typical Biosphere with pristine glacial soundscapes and minimal melodies floating and injecting themselves into the release. That would only be telling half of the story. Despite it being easy to classify the album this way, the real interest for me happens where the less expected elements filter into the composition. Sphere Of No Form is one such example, above the atmosphere of the piece a horn blows off in the distance. Not the pomp of European brass more a natural resonance of wood shaping the sound. Joining the horn comes the striking of bells or chimes that shimmer adding another layer to the dense yet serene composition. Elements that would not necessarily associate themselves with the cold tundra of the soundscape finding a perfect home in this piece. Another highlight of the album is the expectant Chukhung whose bass level pulses with synthesis pushing and resting gradually building interplay with other melodic components. There is a definite thought of the synthetic in this piece, but a notion that has been forged into a more organic nuance. Through the track, the arrangement remains sparse and sounds never threaten to overwhelm but yet the level of urgency ramps up as the songs runs it course. A final track I would single out for a specific mention is Times When I Know You'll Be Sad with a gentle guitar melody lifting out of the ambience to be joined by a distant vocal. An almost pop-like quality that shouldn't fit in with the flow of the album but somehow does before slowly submerging again beneath the soundscapes. By the end of this album it all too apparent that the work is strong throughout, the atmosphere is never shattered, broken or even cracked. The album exists as a whole and though pleasure can be had from the individual compositions the real revelation comes from the album in its entirety. Moving on to consider Disk 2 of the release it is here that I move into uncharted waters. Having never heard the Man With A Movie Camera soundtrack or the Substrata bonus tracks but being a huge fan of Jenssen's work I moved with definite anticipation. The Man With A Movie Camera soundtrack starts with a vocal sample from the early part of the last century, a sample that is clearly linked with the early days of cinema. From there the atmospherics are generated, echoing in space chimes and tones become the focal points. A mood is set for the piece here, a mood of ambience in a familiar style for Jenssen. This mood becomes the centre of the work with occasional stabs of strings, archaic vocal samples or click beats filtering into the work. A pleasant work that is definitely one to relax into rather than actively pursue. Finally to the bonus tracks from the Japanese release of Substrata. The initial impression is somewhat strange as these do not seem to quite fit with the mold of Substrata although perhaps this is because of the flow within that work as a whole. Stylistically, I would place these tracks as somewhere between the sound of Substrata but with a more techno oriented slant like that of earlier work such as Patashnik. Even so, the tracks are pleasant and serve well to round off the CD. In considerring this release as an entire package I can't really do anything other than recommend it. In particular I think this works well as introduction to the work of Geir Jenssen as it covers a wide range of his sound. However, if you already have Substrata then whether this is worth investing in is really a question of how much you appreciate his work.

The Sheffield Telegraph [UK]:

Follow-upto one of the best albums of last year. Cirque, the Norwegian twosome have remastered their 1997 landmark ambient album Substrata and coupled it with their 1996 soundtrack to Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (also done by our own In the Nursery). Once again it is the textures, gentle beats, chilled out samples that give Biosphere's music such a unique atmosphere.

Tandem News [Canada]:

The 1997's top ambient release, originally on Eno's All Saints label, has been remastered and repackaged with the two bonus tracks from the expensive Japanese version. Working through the dark season in his home studio above the Arctic circle, Norway's Geir Jenssen made a name for himself with early '90s albums for the Belgian R&S label and a collaboration with German chill-out king Pete Namlook (Fires of Ork). Substrata perfectly fit within Eno's aesthetic of an electronic music that evokes geographic and psychological space. Jenssen's innovation on Substrata was to contrast acoustic instruments with his deep synth sonics, making subtle dramatic gestures with acoustic guitar in "Poa Alpina," autoharp in "Chukhung," and symphonic samples in the remotely grand "Kobresia." In retrospect these sounds were step one towards the ECM-ish textures on last year's brilliant Cirque release. Also in this double CD set is Jenssen and Per Martinsen's never before released music for Man With A Movie Camera, commissioned for the Troms¿ International Film Festival in 1996. This silent film documentary made by Dziga Vertov in 1929 toured the festival circuit in Europe, garnering similar commissions for the musical groups In The Nursery and Cinematic Orchestra.

Blow Up[Italy]:

Doppio cd in bella edizione digipack disegnata al solito da Jon Wozencroft mentore di casa Touch. Il primo cd va detto subito non  altro che una versione rimasterizzata di "Substrata" il cd uscito su All Saints nel 1997 che qualcuno ma non il sottoscritto considera il pi bell'album ambient dei 90. Disco senz'altro discreto, giˆ recensito al tempo anche su queste pagine, la cui nuova edizione suona semmai ancora pi ovattata ed impalpabile. Vanno segnalate invece due bonus track The Eye of the Cyclone ed Endurium finora disponibili solo nella versione giapponese del cd, decisamente pi metalliche ed in sintonia con certa minimal techno cara al musicista di Tromsoe.Vale la pena invece di spendere qualche parola in pi sul secondo cd in questione: "Man With A Movie Camera" come dal titolo  una delle tante possibili colonne sonore del celeberrimo L'uomo con la Macchina da Presa, il fantastico film muto diretto da Dziga Vertov nel 1929. Questa soundtrack  stata commissionata a Geir Jenssen-Biosphere dall'International Film Festival di Tromsoe nel 1996. Il musicista dopo aver letto le istruzioni scritte lasciate da Vertov per l'accompagnamento musicale del film, ha naturalmente agito secondo la sua sensibilitˆ ed immaginario sonoro, e utilizzando alcuni campioni da "Substrata", ha messo in fila una sequenza di brani dal sicuro effetto cinematico, anche se non sono convinto siano tanto adatti al film di Vertov. Troppa forse la loro densitˆ, o potremmo dire paradossalmente troppa musicalitˆ. Ma il disco funziona bene di per se stesso, con un Biosphere nella sua veste pi dark ambient, fitta di field recordings, voci aliene, atmosfere sospese tra etere e materia. (7 e 7/8 rispettivamente) (Gino Dal Soler)

Evolver (net):
 
Lebenszeichen aus einer gefrorenen Welt "Substrata/Man With a Movie Camera", das von vielen mit nicht geringer Spannung erwartete Nachfolgewerk Geir Jensens fŸr Touch Records, erfreut zunþchst das Auge: Schlichter hþtte Stardesigner Jon Wozencroft gar nicht an die Sache herangehen kšnnen. Anscheinend ist auch er einer der vielen Zentraleuropþer, die gern Urlaubsdias schie§en... Das Papier-Digipack enthŸllt beim …ffnen zwei Silberscheiben, wobei zunþchst die zweite CD des Doppelalbums interessiert: "Man With a Movie Camera", Geir Jensens neu erschaffener Soundtrack zu einem fast vergessenen russischen Stummfilm von Dziga Vertov (1929). Der so vertonte Film wurde 1996 beim "Troms International Film Festival" uraufgefŸhrt. Was wir auf der Platte zu hšren bekommen, sind Soundtrack-Ambience in hšchster Auflšsung, spŸrbare Hallrþume ohne Ende und High-Tech-Samples, die einfach klassisch und genial sind. Jensens Ideenreichtum scheint schier endlos, und dennoch gilt die Devise: Ruhe, Ruhe, Ruhe. Danach folgen die "Japanese tracks", die bislang nur den Japan-Export-CDs vorbehalten waren, und zwar als Bonustracks von "Substrata", das 1997 regulþr auf Biophon Records - Jensens eigenem Hauslabel - erschienen war. In der 2001er-Edition von Touch Records ist das Album als CD Nummer 1 gereiht. Auf "Substrata" erwartet selbst den Eno-Geeichtesten, den italienischen Dark-Ambient-Erprobtesten (Alio Die, Vidna Obmana, Five Thousands Spirits), wie auch den begeistertsten Lustmord-Fanatiker genau das, von dem er immer schon wu§te, da§ es sowas einfach geben mu§: der totale Chillout. †berhaupt scheint das sogenannte nordische Element in den letzten Jahren einen Siegeszug angetreten zu haben. Die Presse verhþlt sich wie immer bei solchen Trends - ein deutlicher Schwerpunkt Ÿber Berichte zum Thema "nšrdlicher Polarkreis" war zu verzeichnen. Als Rezensent kann man zwar nicht hundertprozentig bestþtigten, da§ das melancholische, nordische Element, die Isolation, das "Weit-entfernt-sein" bei den Soundscapes von Biosphere am besten zu Tage tritt. Da denkt man dann doch eher an das Album "North" von Hazard oder - unvergessen - Hilmar …rn Hilmarssons Filmmusik "Children of Nature" (alle auf Touch Records). Doch es sind trotzdem Lebenzeichen aus einer gefrorenen Welt, die man hier zu hšren bekommt - zeitgemþ§ und spacey. Kaum ein anderer kann Klangmaterial spannender ineinander verweben, mal abgesehen von solchen Grš§en wie Marc van Hoen/Locust, Paul SchŸtze oder Lagovski alias S.E.T.I. selbst. Die Vision ist also nicht Ÿbertrieben: klare, eisige Luft Ÿberall, vorbeitreibende Eisschollen; es dampft, wenn man ausatmet. Am Horizont erkennt man die Wšlbung des Planeten. Und wenn die Sonne im Westen untergeht, erstrahlt das Firmament von unten. Das schšne an Biospheres Ambience ist, da§ sie immer funktioniert. Egal, wo und wann Mr. Jensen live spielt - er verwandelt jeden noch so hei§en Veranstaltungskessel (von manchen auch Clubbing genannt) in einen Eiskasten! Nordisch gut! Unbedingt antesten! [Ernst Meyer]

Side Line (Belgium):

This new album of Geir Jenssen, master of ambient, consists out of 2 discs. "Substrata" has been originally released in 1997 and now remastered, containing 11 tracks. "Man with a movie camera" consists of 7 tracks of the soundtrack with the same title and 2 tracks, originally released on the limited edition Japanese version of "Substrata". The first disc has been often considered as one of the absolute chef d'oeuvres in the contemporary ambient scene. The relaxing atmospheres are mainly built up without real rhythmic structures...just to accentuate the wafting sensation. It comes from the imagination and the talent of a world-wide-recognised composer. Listening to biosphere is like travelling through distant cultures and stunning landscapes. With the second disc, G. Jenssen was asked to write a new soundtrack for a Russian silent movie of 1929. I personally prefer this record for being a bit heavier, even if this isn't the right term for Biosphere. There's just a bit more dynamics in the structures, which I appreciate a lot. The last cuts (previously released on the Japanese "Substrata"-version) are more into rhythm and groovy arrangements. "The eye of the cyclone" is a great piece of music. This is Biosphere at his best, but not totally representative of what he's usually doing. A recommended present if you're into ambient and especially in the grip of Biosphere! (DP 7/8)

Chad Oliveiri [USA]:

Ambient music as a soundtrack to Dziga Vertov's jumpy 1929 silent film, Man With the Movie Camera, is an interesting proposition, but it doesn't quite pan out on paper. Vertov's film is an attempt to distill truth from visual "garbage," and it relies heavy on editing and montage. The music of Norway's Geir Jenssen is quite the opposite: methodical, side-long, pastoral. For the Movie Camera soundtrack, the Biosphere MO is adapted a bit to include musique conrète techniques, which help provide aural cues for anyone who attempts to view the film while listening to the music. Included with the soundtrack is a CD re-master of Biosphere's Substrata, and it's reason alone to buy the set. Jenssen's ambience has teeth. It's not the limp synth-wash wallpaper normally associated with the genre. Substrata is a very clear-headed statement of purpose. Field recordings mesh with billowing string arrangements. Ambient tones retain a brilliant luster and often take on a sinister sheen. Jenssen allows his music to be evocative in ways that many of his contemporaries would consider sinful. And in that sense, this is daring stuff indeed.

All-Music Guide [USA]:

Substrata 2 is not a sequel to Geir Jenssen, aka Biospher}’s critically-acclaimed 1997 CD, but a generously engrossed reissue. Following the success of Cirque, the artist’s first album for the highly-regarded UK label Touch, and coinciding with a string of live dates around England, the company decided to give this classic a complete overhaul. New artwork was produced by Touch artist Jon Wozencroft, the eleven original tracks were remastered, and a second CD was added. Of Substrata itself, little need to be said: the music is clearly into ambient domain, dominated by soft field recordings and lazy guitar lines (think of Loren Mazzacane Connor, Low, or even Godspeed You Black Emperor). The techno element has been relegated to electronic manipulations and discreet events of glitch. A monologue in Swedish appears as a watermark in “Kobresia,” bringing Biosphere’s music surprisingly close to Tibor Szemzö’s. Disc 2 contains over 50 minutes of music. First is the soundtrack to Man with a Movie Camera, a Russian silent film by Dziga Vertov dating back to 1929. Jenssen was asked to create a soundtrack using the director’s instructions for the accompanying piano player. The results are very cinematic -- which is not that easy to accomplish. Eery atmospheres, dominated by synthesizers this time, are interwoven with snippets of speech. In this project the music paradoxically moves into both more conventional techno domains, with the return of pulse, even constructed linear beats in “City Wakes Up” and “Ballerina,”} and electroacoustics verging on >musique concrète (“Manicure”). “Freeze-Frames,” with its short looped samples acting like a gallery of half-remembered images, provides the highlight. This second disc also contains two bonus tracks from the Substrata sessions, previously available only on the Japanese edition. “The Eye of the Cyclone” and “Endurium” are the most beat-driven music of the whole set, clearly club-oriented (especially in the first case). One easily understands why they were left off the original album.

allmusic.com:
 
Substrata 2 is not a sequel to Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere's critically acclaimed 1997 CD, but a generously engrossed reissue. Following the success of Cirque, the artist's first album for the highly regarded U.K. label Touch, and coinciding with a string of live dates around England, the company decided to give this classic a complete overhaul. New artwork was produced by Touch artist Jon Wozencroft, the 11 original tracks were remastered, and a second CD was added. Of Substrata itself, little need to be said: The music is clearly into ambient domain, dominated by soft field recordings and lazy guitar lines (think of Loren Mazzacane Connors, Low, or even Godspeed You Black Emperor!). The techno element has been relegated to electronic manipulations and discreet events of glitch. A monologue in Swedish appears as a watermark in "Kobresia," bringing Biosphere's music surprisingly close to Tibor Szemzš's. Disc two contains over 50 minutes of music. First is the soundtrack to Man With a Movie Camera, a Russian silent film by Dziga Vertov dating back to 1929. Jenssen was asked to create a soundtrack using the director's instructions for the accompanying piano player. The results are very cinematic Ñ which is not that easy to accomplish. Eerie atmospheres, dominated by synthesizers this time, are interwoven with snippets of speech. In this project the music paradoxically moves into both more conventional techno domains, with the return of pulse, even constructed linear beats in "City Wakes Up" and "Ballerina," and electro-acoustics verging on musique concrte ("Manicure"). "Freeze-Frames," with its short looped samples acting like a gallery of half-remembered images, provides the highlight. This second disc also contains two bonus tracks from the Substrata sessions, previously available only on the Japanese edition. "The Eye of the Cyclone" and "Endurium" are the most beat-driven music of the whole set, clearly club-oriented (especially in the first case). One easily understands why they were left off the original album. [Francois Couture]

Exposé Magazine:

The original 1997 release of Substrata is a classic of the ambient genre, literally redefining it in some respects. It is part ambient music, part talking and environmental noise, all with Geir Jenssen's typical Norwegian touches. You can practically hear the ice floes. His music seems to personify cold, and yet there is organic beauty that lends a sense of warmth as well. Substrata 2 is a remastered version of the original disc, plus an entirely new second disc for most listeners, with the exception of some bonus tracks that appeared on the Japanese version of the first Substrata release. The rest is a soundtrack specifically composed by Jenssen to accompany a Russian silent film from 1929 entitled Man With A Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov. The resulting soundworld is very much an extension of Substrata. In fact, some of the same spoken word clips appear on both discs. This lends a certain familiarity to the work. Part of the appeal for me of the original was that it was a totally new sound, unlike anything I'd heard before. This time, it's more like curling up on the couch with a familiar friend to chat by the fire. Bundle up and enjoy. Biosphere's unique brand of icy ambience is more sound than music, but the cool drones and hypnotic beats meld perfectly with the many abstract sound samples, as on his earlier works. [Phil Derby]

The Milk Factory (Norway):

Substrata, released in 1997, is one of the finest purely ambient record ever released. From his remote part of the world, Geir Jenssen, better known as Biosphere, has slowly become an artist in the true meaning of the word, as his work for art galleries or moviemakers took him to explore sound in a different way. Substrata was the result of this new direction, and Touch now releases a remastered version of this masterpiece, together with the soundtrack for Man With A Movie Camera, commissioned by the Tromso International Film Festival that same year. Substrata is inhabited by the vast spaces spreading across the artic region, endless nights and midnight sun, sub-zero temperatures and Northern lights. Never a record had been so intimate with nature, so close to the sounds, colours and smells of its environment. Jenssen emphasises the intensity of these elements by bringing them into his beat-less compositions, allowing them to take control of this new organic world. From time to time, more urban sounds come into the spectrum, when voice samples telling abstract stories, or a melancholic guitar offering support to an unlikely song emerge, but always, these components get swallowed in by the magma-like ambiences. The listener becomes a helpless witness of the beauty and cruelty of life. Jenssen's unusual vision, similar to Eno's,Ê In the year Substrata was released, Geir Jenssen was commissioned by the Tromso International Film Festival to write a new soundtrack for 1929 Man With A Movie Camera film, by Russian director Dziga Vertow. Jenssen worked with fellow Norwegian Per Martinsen, aka Mental Overdrive, from Vertow's instructions for musical accompaniment. Each musician worked on every other part. There are numerous similarities between Substrata and Jenssen's compositions for this soundtrack. Elaborating from common samples, he creates equally intense sound structures. However, Man With A Movie Camera is not as arid as Substrata. Field recordings collide with orchestras, accordions, beat patterns and samples from old French movies to create a multicoloured patchwork of incredible diversity.Ê The second CD composing this release also includes two tracks originally only available on the Japanese version of Substrata. If The Eye Of The Cyclone is an upbeat affair, evoking more Jenssen's composition on Microgravity or Patashnik, Endurium reaffirms that Biosphere is now turned towards cinemascope horizons and natural ambiences. As Geir Jenssen continues to work on various projects, all more or less related to music, Substrata 2 is a healthy definition of the work he has produced over the last five years. This second Biosphere release for Touch is an essential record. [5 stars]

 


Ambient Trance 9USA):

Better late than never... even though Cirque is circa 2000, I'm happy to give it full-length coverage; as always, Biosphere unleashes gently psychedelic auras of barely-tangible music... soft, sweet experimentalism. Wafting ephemera shifts beneath a muted rhythm as Nook & Cranny releases dreamy gusts of hypnotic loveliness. Phantasmal jungle drums pulse through the hovering sheens (and quiet radio voices) of Le Grande Dôme, another entrancing blend of intangible essences with not-quite-concrete percussion. The brief stuttering shimmers of Grandiflora (0:48) seep into the deeply thrumming expanse of beatless Black Lamb & Grey Falcon, where piano-esque notes tinkle and less-recognizable energies swell. Woozy blurs and sub-bass blurts course through When I Leave , joined by feminine conversation and cymbal taps. Iberia Eterea (6:38) throbs (again somehow drunkenly) as oddly-diffused chords pump in time, eventually revved up by more-proper percussion (and briefly allowing a rather different musical nature slip out). Ghostmachine resonance hovers into a heaven of Algae and Fungi part 1, where it washes like seafoam clouds which are surprisingly stirred by deeply thumping bassiness, which gradually murks-out into muted rumblings as the piece evolves into its thunderous, wondrous part 11. In 47.5 minutes/11 tracks, Biosphere builds otherworldly concertos of pillowy electronic mutations, sometimes which are driven by seductively subdued beatsystems. Lovely weirdness flows all around Cirque. [A]

Your Flesh, USA:
 

With Cirque, Geir Jenssen has released a record that effortlessly combines elements of ambient, techno, drum-n-bass, concrete and experimental styles that fuse to reveal an assured and remarkable musical voice. "Nook and Cranny" opens the disc like a harsh dream, with a slow soft build. "Le Grand Dome" begins a song cycle in which voices, panning left and right, float above the sonic bed; at one point a new age spiritualist is speaking of "Stairway to Heaven" and then about peace being a "matrix" which must come down from on high. Cosmic. With "Iberia Eterea" the momentum builds while "Moistened and Dried" sounds like impossibly cold droplets of falling and disappearing into a deep well. Scattered throughout are subtle orchestral flourishes and "Algae and Fungi (parts 1 and 2)" took me on a fast ride at night on a deserted roadway with fluorescent lights shooting by. Add to this the superlative packaging and design by Jon Wozencroft, and you have one of the most notable releases of the year. Stunning. [Wade Iversen]

Touching Extremes, net:

The album cover says it all: ice all over, blue sky, the idea of silence. Put the stylus on the vinyl and what you get is a classy, mesmerizing pot of loop-based new ambient bathed in reverb and delays, with some rhythms and voices here and there. Minute by minute, time runs out and you’ve come across various phases of detachment, flying high in your mind but never exiting your window actually. Notice the deep search into this - just apparently - simple music. Peculiar, in a class of its own. [MASSIMO RICCI]

Incursion:

Geir Jenssen presents 11 pieces of smooth soundscapes and muted, gentle rhythms in his latest release on Touch. Right from the opening sequences of this record I am drawn in. The quiet textures and mellow tones of the opener lead into the excellent track "Le Grand Dôme", in which a walking-pace rhythm kicks in with alluring effect. "When I Leave" offers a deeply submerged bass rhythm, "Iberia Eterea" enjoys some crisp jazz-house drumming and sampled woodwinds, leading into the glacial "Moistened & Dried". "Too Fragile to Walk On" closes the album with quiet wonder. Some deep, cool atmospheres and loops are sometimes reminiscent of 1997's Substrata on All Saints Records, but overall Cirque presents a thoroughly developed and distinct sound from his earlier work. Sounds and voices of the world weave in and out of the mix, giving the sense that the listener is both connected to that world and set apart from it at the same time; the listener is placed in that quiet town pictured on the back cover of the record, with Geir himself as guide, so close to the arctic circle and so far away from these voices that come to us through mysterious channels and frequencies, over radio waves and through the very space itself... Jenssen's music has an incredibly alluring quality that I find difficult to rationalise; I let this music wash over me completely and take over the space of my house. A superb achievement. [Richard di Santo]
 
Grooves:

Geir Jenssen left his first band, late eighties group Bel Canto, to develop his own musical direction after releasing two albums. He went on to record two techno albums and four singles as Bleep. Adopting the name Biosphere, a sealed dome space station experiment in self-sufficient living based in the Arizona desert, Jenssen released two increasingly successful ambient techno albums, Microgravity and Patashnik. After the single Novelty Waves from the Patashnik album was used in a Levi's jeans ad, rather than use the sound as a formula for future works, Jenssen moved away from it, his music becoming increasingly less like techno. The last three Biosphere albums, Polar Sequences and Birmingham Frequencies with Higher Intelligence Agency, and Substrata, the last real Biosphere album some three years ago, are relatively minimal and spacious, not completely devoid of beats but more ambient than techno.
 
Biosphere's music is hard to describe, it's far from the distorted noise or blippy electronic music that is popular in recent years. His music is more ambient, intense and structured. It is also hard to isolate any one given track to review as the music fits together wonderfully as a single piece, flowing naturally from track to track. Jenssen's music is referred to in the press and on his website as having an "arctic sound" and it is easy to appreciate why. The packaging of his albums commonly shows several images of iceflows and frozen landscapes and is printed in shades of blue, grey and white, reflecting the terrain he is familiar with and samples for his music. The word Cirque itself is defined as "a semicircular amphitheater shaped feature with steep walls carved by a glacier" or "can also be an adjective refering to the type of glacier that forms completely within such an amphitheater". This fascination or love of his surrounding terrain is reflected in Jenssen's music, conjuring up images of vast expanses of snow, ice and rock, the beauty such a sight is to witness and the inherent danger this can ultimately bring. The Cirque album itself is at least partly inspired by Chris McCandless, who in April 1992 hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness, only to be found dead four months later having made a tragic error with his food supply.
 
As with all of the Biosphere albums, the music draws you in and makes you want to listen and feel. Jenssen's work acts on a very emotional level, one that encourages you to drift away into a haze of images and scenes brought to you by the music, where spectacular beauty hides unseen danger. Intense and moving, but comforting and soothing at the same time.
 
VITAL (The Netherlands):
 
This is Geir Jenssen's first release in three years, and it is a perfect reminder that perhaps brevity and quality are inextricably linked. Not enough of a good thing is far more preferable than an excess of mediocrity, after all. Cirque is partly inspired by the story of Chris McCandless, who hitchhiked to Alaska in April 1992, went walkabout in the wilderness and, due to an error in his food supply, was found four months later, quite dead. The music is cinematic, even symphonic in structure. Single sounds occur throughout as thematic elements, delicately punctuating the melodic theme with the precision of a snowflake. There are acres of space: sounds heap up in harmonic order like conscious clouds assuming formation. Geo-thermal yawns and glacial rumbles close winters grate. Boreas, barely able to hold his breath, exhales soft, frosty clouds, and melting ice coruscates as cold slowly shuts its snap. Faraway floes turn turtle. The swing of spring music retunes the sky. Drops drip like Ligeti's metronomes, unwinding with each step the sun takes up its northern tropical staircase. The primordes awake - algae bubbles like the witches' sulphuric soup and lichen creeps like grey fingers up stony spines. Biology stirs in sleeping stumps, 'splaying green smudges. Hoof-smears, bird-chitter, morning stars. No trudge across the winterbound tundra, this. Rather a journey across unknown surfaces, some sheer, some sweet, all fierce and full of fight to guard their frailty.

Mojo (UK):

Fourth full album from ambient pioneer:
vinyl version contains killer locked-groove.
 
Coming to prominence with 1992's Microgravity - which along with the first couple of Aphex/Polygon Window CDs, defined the genre ambient - Geir Jenssen as Biosphere has made three of the '90s' best albums, culminating with last year's near beatless Substrata. The idea - as it always was thanks to Eno's On Land - is music as environment (reflecting, creating): working from his base in Tromso, Arctic Norway, Jenssen offers a polar, Apollonian exploration of the human psyche. Cirque is a perfectly constructed 47-minute sequence: cold clarity up against real depth of field, synth cycles dissolving into sudden moments of sonic revelation that sound like a waking dream - try the first 20 seconds of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. (And if you think that's pretentious - your loss). Inspired by the story of a young American, Chris McCandless, who walked alone into the Alaskan wilderness and perished, Cirque balances the tightrope between warmth and unease, resolving into a moon melody that leaves you a peace. What a good record! [Jon Savage].
 
Bizarre (UK):
 
Quite, quite beautiful. Deep and lush, this sounds warm and enveloping while occasionally hinting at the sub-zero temperatures of Geir Jensen's Arctic home in Tromso, Norway. But that's not all: there is flow, there is edge, there is tension. Immerse yourself, then float higher than the surface. Jenssen uses the proceeds of his recordings to finance mountaneering trips and he deserves a goody on the back of this disc.
 
J-B André, Les Inrockuptibles, Paris, France
 
Biosphere : Cirque Touch/Fnac Import
 
Tele :funken : A Collection of Ice Cream Vans Vol1 Domino/Labels
 
"Quel désaccord avec le monde m'a fait me retrouver là" murmure cet explorateur polaire français récupéré par le norvégien, cartographe et poète incontournable de l'arctique en musique Gerd Jenssens. Découvert avec Bel Canto, son projet Biosphere révélé au plus grand nombre grâce à une pub levis pour la poche à capote, sa musique reprend un tour des plus excitants avec son nouvel album Cirque. Lui dont les hymnes technos et les morceaux d'ambiance mordants révélaient la complaisance pour le froid a réussi a apprivoiser son terrain d'inspiration. De lieu de mort, la glace devient une terre promise avec de la neige autour. Déformés par la distance et les échos, ces sons dub et techno nous emmènent pour une épopée sans réelle issue dans un univers matelassé peint en connaisseur. Chaque année qui passe nous voit écouter des albums allant toujours plus loin pour donner à la musique électronique les pulsations de la vie, mais il faudra sans doutes des années à la masse pour dépasser Cirque, disque parfait. Ce sont aussi les latitudes extrêmes qui ont fait de ce premier véritable album de Tele :funken ce qu'il est. Découvert au détour d'un disque douteux ou il remixait le portrait de Flying Saucer Attack, on avait appris à aimer la délicatesse de ce Tele :tubbie allemand que l'on croyait issue de la même portée que Isan et Plone. Au hasard des rencontres, il échoue chez Pram à Birningham, ville dans laquelle il faut beaucoup d'imagination pour voir l'herbe verte et les petits lapins sortir du béton. Ce stage en milieu urbain mené en compagnie de spécialistes du rêve décalé l'amène à réviser ses idées, à corser sa musique en la teintant de sons empruntés aux ténors de l'électronique à poil dru comme Autechre et Scanner, les rockeurs plus ou moins hallucinogènes de Tortoise et Spacemen 3. Voilà tous ces grands noms conviés sur cette Collection of Ice Cream Vans aux pneus sales - tous garés devant un jardin d'enfants. C'est cette fraîcheur jointe à un réel talent pour nous faire revivre certaines terreurs enfantines avec deux ou trois blips qui font de l'album de Tele :funken un disque qui est au For Beginner Piano de Plone ce que Cendrillon est à l'Etrange Noël de Monsieur Jack.
 
re:mote induction (UK):
 
It has now been three years since the last Biosphere album Substrata, with the intervening period now being shown to have not been stationary for Geir Jenssen. The latest Biosphere album, Cirque, shows definite progression in many ways, whilst remaining undoubtedly identifiable as the work of Jenssen. At the same time the progression between the two albums is quite stark, especially in an A-B comparison of the two.
 
A big part of Jenssen's work has always been the emotive nature of the music. The ability to conjure image and convey almost tangible feelings of being in the environment of his music. Previously the music has been easily linked with this environment and intimation of an arctic climate was undeniable. With Cirque this link to the desolate tundra is not so clear although the music is no less emotive. To my ear, the sound of Biosphere seems to be thawing with this release. The timbres of the sound still remain cool but the sounds have now become more liquid in their nature. This theme is continued within the artwork of the album with the photography of the booklet often depicting bodies of water, temperate landscapes and the edge of ice against water.
 
Attempting to select individual tracks from this release for discussion is a difficult task and I would even go so far as to say that judging any single track by itself is less than satisfying. This is a classic case of the whole being more than the sum of it's part. The individual songs are almost dull and pointless, lacking any strong direction or commitment that allows them to be enjoyable by themselves. However, once these are placed into the context of the album and allowed to merge with the other tracks the flow becomes very strong and it becomes a pleasure to sit back and let the mood of the album lead you. Close examination of the album does reveal a more upbeat feeling than of the previous album. Ambiences to this are not as bleak, containing a more organic sway and the feeling of movement is enhanced through a greater presence percussion.
 
The structural aspects of Cirque also aid to the generation of emotion and mood on this release. Progression through the album is slow but steady, taking time to allow aspects of the music to evolve and fully express themselves. Toward the end of the album the build has become quite definite and it is only with the sharp counterpoint of Algae & Fungi Part 11 to the ultimate track Too Fragile To Walk On that the speed of of the former gives way to the soundscaped conclusions of the latter.
 
As may have been apparent throughout this review I have enjoyed this release a great deal and view this as being another strong release from Geir Jenssen. In my opinion this album has no weak tracks to sully any feelings toward it but the need to listen to the whole album to get full enjoyment makes this a release that is not for everyone. In many ways though, this makes for an excellent introduction to the Biosphere sound for those new to the band as it stradles the sheer ambiences of recent time with a hint of the more upbeat sound of the early material.
 
The City Newspaper, Rochester, NY, USA
 
The sun doesn't shine much during the winter months in Tromsø, the small Norwegian seaport 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle that Geir Jenssen calls home. Of course, that doesn't explain why the electronic music he records as Biosphere is so visual, evoking images of far-flung glacial formations, moving at feature film speed through liquid beats and warm, deeply human sound sculptures. Biosphere has come a long way from the ambient techno it started out as. (The 1995 cut "Novelty Waves" served as the soundtrack for a Levi's ad.) This music is much slower, textured, almost "environmental" in its sound and deliberate development. The record can be played as one continuous, 47-minute sequence, with each track gracefully flowing into the next. You'll find rhythm, but its hiding behind a haze of synth cycles and blurred sub-zero bass that, together, weave a graceful, liquid-metallic sheen across the music's surface. Cirque is inspired partly by Into the Wild, the 1992 book that documents the story of Chris McCandless, who walked alone into the Alaskan wilderness and died four months later. Like Jon Krakauer's book, Cirque presents tension between comfort and discomfort, peace and unease. Far from self-indulgence, Cirque is a deeply focused and fertile project, teeming with detail. Pay close attention."Cirque" and other Biosphere releases are available on the Web at <www.dutch-east.com>. [Chad Oliveiri]
 
 TOP Magazine (UK):
 
Cirque du Soleil by Pete Lawrence
 
Three years after its release, BIOSPHERE's 'Substrata' is already being recognised as one of the all time greats of deep electronica. It is his acute sense of musical spaciousness and suspense that perhaps enables Norway's Geir Jenssen to create such powerful musical statements - a quality possessed by very few musicians and only the best mood manipulators. LTJ Bukem, Global Communication and Another Fine Day come to mind. (no they don't! - JW.). On 'Cirque' [Touch]*****, Biosphere's music quietly demands time and attention. No use looking to chalk up quick, hedonistic pleasure points here; your best approach is to slow down to its pace. It's best analysed not in terms of its separate tracks but as a totally immersive entity with the incidental details of spoken word, musical fragmentation and voice-over blending into the script. No escapist new age fantasy but a real life drama, the beauty is in the discomfort and the danger, as well as the moments of blissful freefall. A perfectly imperfect union of nature and technology for the summer.
 
Publico (Portugal):

Cirque (8/10)
Touch, distri. Matéria-Prima
Da pop gelado de baunilha dos Bel Canto às primeiras sess'es de ambient tecno e chill out levadas a cabo sob a designação Biosphere, o percurso musical do norueguês Geir Jenssen tem sido uma constante aproximação ao P'lo Norte. Para já, estabeleceu a sua base criativa num estúdio situado a 400 milhas a norte do Círculo Polar Árctico, para aí, alternadamente, prospectar sob a superfície do gelo em busca de sinais de vida e apontar o telesc'pio para a escuridão gélida do céu, em busca de frequências alienígenas. "Cirque" é mais um passo na direcção de uma música que definitivamente rompeu com o compasso tecno para se localizar no centro de uma região povoada pelos espíritos do Norte. A novela que serviu de inspiração a este álbum, "Into the Wild", de Jon Krakauer, a hist'ria das viagens pela América do Norte de um explorador em busca do autoconhecimento que finalmente acaba por morrer no Alasca, na mais completa solidão, ilustra na perfeição a demanda de Geir Jenssen da definitiva banda sonora para o cérebro, que, quanto mais gelado, mais e mais coloridas alucinaç'es consegue produzir. Comparado com o suave batuque astral dos Can em "Future Days", "Cirque" pode igualmente ser encarado como uma espécie de visão da fauna e flora microsc'pica, substrato invisível da selva que, mais acima, Jon Hassell desbravou com a sua música do "quarto mundo". As batidas são quase subliminares, de água e poalha de gelo, as vagas electr'nicas avançam lenta mas inexoravelmente como um gigantesco glaciar em fase de degelo. A música de "Cirque" é tão bela como as imagens da Natureza que a acompanham no respectivo livrete. Tão bela como as metamorfoses subtis de uma aurora boreal. [Fernando Magalhães]
 
The Sheffield Telegraph (UK):

Martin Lilleker writes:
Album of the year by a mile already. It's not pop music but chilled out instrumental grooves and sounds which reflect the space and climate of Biosphere's base in the Arctic, Tromso, Norway. It was inspired by the story of a man who hitchhiked to Alaska, walked alone into the wilderness, and was found dead after a tragic error with his food supply. Beautiful and intense.
 
The Wire (UK):
 
The word 'Ambient' might now be a fairly lazy and degraded label, but it still feels like the best quickfix adjective to slap onto Cirque. Though it lists 11 titles, the album sounds more like one seamless piece. Leisurely, pulsing, eerie and seductive, it locates itself at the more reflective end of electronica. A cynic might label it chill-out music with an ecological gloss - indeed, South Park's Cartman would brand it 'tree-hugging hippy crap'. I guess it is, but of a distinctly superioir kind.
 
The packaging alone would enrage Cartman: the CD booklet shuns words for a series of landscape photographs featuring snow, water, rocks, sunsets, mountains, even a stone circle. It that's a recipe for eco-whimsy, the music itself is stronger and more subtle, tracing mesmerising geographies of sound. Nothing leaps out and assaults you; rather, eveything entices and lingers, with gently insistent rhythms and sparingly melodic chords draped around field recordings (running water, birdsong, the occasional snippet of anonymous interviews).
 
Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere) was partly inspired by the story of Chris McCandless, an explorer whose solo trek across Alaska ended in his untimely death, but Cirque doesn't require narrative support. In the best sense of the the term, this is abstract music, rooted in a certain relationship to natural phenomena but otherwise not shackled to any over-schematic meaning. It draws a little on on early 90s crossovers where Ambient nuzzled up against dance (Jam & Spoon, KLF's pastoral gambits, The Orb), but it's not in any way dated.
 
[Andy Medhurst]
 
Weekly Dig (USA):
 
Unfortunately, around the mid-1990s ambient's reputation took a tremendous beating, with many calling it nothing more than an evolved form of cheesy new age music. While I understand that there is a tremendous amount of ambient that does evoke shades of Narada and other notable new age artists, there have been some ambient works that continue to leave an undeniable mark on the music world. For example, Aphex Twin's Vol. 2 - Selected Ambient Works, a brilliant compilation featuring Richard James' most notable ambient works, still has a mystifying effect on me, as does Shuffle 358's Optimal EP, which was possibly 1999's greatest undiscovered secret.
 
Recently I received Biosphere, a stunningly beautiful ambient release containing a mixture of etherealness and spacy downtempo grooves. This 11-track compilation at times shuffles back and forth between tribal percussions, trip-hop beats, drum and bass licks and glacial bleeps and bloops. The album is inundating with peaceful overtures, allowing one to focus and relax without ever feeling overtly bored with the background music being played. That is one of ambient's biggest criticisms, that it is either too boring or too similar to all of the other releases in the genre. Cirque doesn't suffer this fate; in fact it overcomes this as an extreme level of uniqueness. Simply put, I have desk drawers full of releases that are completely uninteresting and forgettable. However, this one avoids the trap. If you are a fan of ambient, I strongly urge you to check out this release, as it has a musicality that completely drawers you in. Definitely a keeper. (Craig Kapilow)
 
Motion/State 51 (UK):
 
The long-awaited follow-up to Substrata, by many (the undersigned included) considered to be the finest ambient album of the 1990s. After releasing brilliant remixes of the Norwegian electronic pioneer Arne Nordheim (Nordheim Transformed, together with Deathprod), a retrospective of poppier remix work (Biosystems), and a second collaborative site performance with Higher Intelligence Agency (Birmingham Frequencies), Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere returns to the Arctic ambience which he has made into a genre all its own. With patient, consummate craft, his deceptively simple recipe of quiet electronic loops and disembodied, sampled voices and instruments - seemingly plucked out of the microwaves coursing through the long Norwegian night from his studio in Tromsø. - lends that actually-existing geographic place its own, conceptually fascinating, imagined soundtrack. A somewhat forbidding environment - a woman's voice warns, "When I leave, don't follow". Wise advice, perhaps, since the last track is called "Too Fragile to Walk On". But the surface of this soundworld is anything but thin; and Cirque is a source of warmth whose presence one would be foolish to quit. Huddle down and turn your back on the winter night outside.
 
OOR (The Netherlands):
 
Biosphere is een overlevende van de ambient-rage van een jaar of 6 terug, een ambacht die hij nog steeds als geen ander beheerste. De muziek is als de foto's (van onder andere zijn Noorse woonplaats Tromso) op de hoes en in het boekje : ijzig, desolaat, statisch en op zijn best van een beklemmende schoonheid. Maar af en toe kleeft er iets gemakzuchtigs aan de ambient formule van Geir Jenssen, die zijn gebruik van 'veldopnamen' van veel creativiteit blijk geeft, maar de mist in gaat als hij ergens een stijf en plichtmatig drum 'n' bass-beatje uit het doosje trekt. Zijn muziek drijft op keurig afgeronde hoeken en dat is bij Mika Vainio wel anders. Ook zijn nieuwe roept ietwat gemengde gevoelens op, maar dan om omgekeerde
redenen. De helft van het Finse duo Pan Sonic trekt kale geluidsvlakten op, die van een stekelige hoekigheid blijken. Klanken verschieten subtiel van kleur en richting, een proces dat aandachtige beluistering verdient en dan voor het eigenlijke drama in de muziek blijkt te zorgen. Vainio is echter iets te streng in de leer, wat Kajo tot een zwaar verteerbare aangelegenheid maakt. Maar om zijn onstuitbare exploratiedrang is Vainio me net iets liever dan Biosphere. [Jacob Haagsma]
 
ROCK SOUND (UK):
 
Geir Jensen's music has always been about remoteness and distance. Based in his home town of Tromso, situated in northern Norway, 200 miles above the Arctic Circle, surrounded by glaciers and imposing fjords, and plunged into total darkness for three months in winter, 'Cirque' is very much a product of this environment, its slowly enfolding polar ambience far removed from the supercharged techno of 'Novelty Waves' that brought him to the fringe of mainstream success. Biosphere is unusual in its instantly recognisable style, an ability to transport the listener to a totally different landscape and a deep sense of spatial awareness that puts you in no doubt why Jensen is in such demand for film soundtracks and art installation work. 'Cirque', literally an amphitheatre-shaped crevice cut by a glacier, is inspired in part by the story of Chris McCandless, an amateur explorer whose trek into the Alaskan wastes ended in tragedy. That's not to say the music itself is cold; unlike similarly inspired composer Thomas Koner whose Arctic-inspired 'Teimo' gripped like frostbite, Biosphere's is enveloped in mist with the Northern lights flashing wildly in the distance. From the moody rhythm gymnastics of 'Iberian Eterea' to the snowstorm flurry techno of 'Algae and Fungi', via 'Black Lamb & Grey Falcon''s ghost orchestra, 'Cirque''s windswept abandonment leaves you in no doubt of the benefit of Jensen's artistic hibernation. At one point a disembodied voice intones solemnly "When I leave, you'll follow". Too true. [Neil Gardner]
 
gg (net, USA):
 
Geir Jenssen's output toward the latter end of the '90s includes a soundtrack, a remix collection, a reinterpretation of Arne Nordheim's ageless electro-acoustic works, and collaborations with HIA's Bobby Bird. CIRQUE is the first volume of undiluted Biosphere since 1997's SUBSTRATA. The exquisite CIRQUE was inspired by the harrowing story of Chris McCandles, a young man whose self-determined survival quest in the Alaskan wilderness ended tragically.
 
Like the best Biosphere, CIRQUE captures the grandeur and danger of the ice-bound North. Elegant ambient loops and craggy beats call to mind miles of frozen tundra and boundless blue sky. It's apparent how McCandles was seduced by the siren song of Alaska's natural mystery. As the listener is led through the layered landscape, accumulating accents suggest the mirage-like shadow play of sunlight on snow ("Iberia Eterea"), the arrayed flight of furred and feathered onlookers ("Black Lamb & Grey Falcon"), the imposing presence of mountains and weather fronts, and the mesmerizing underfoot crunch of packed permafrost. Sampled wireless transmissions and emphatic bass undulations impart a menacing character to CIRQUE's aural Arctic, and the elegiac closer ("Too Fragile to Walk On") serves as a sad reminder that Man's spirit is always subject to his physical frailties.
 
XLR8R (USA):
 
If you think ambient music is just too mid-90s, think again: Biosphere, who for a decade now has designed the blueprint for resonant, ambient techno, returns with two releases proving the genre's continuing relevance....On the masterful Cirque, Jenssen updates the Arctic dread of 1997's Substrata, warming up otherwise icy climes with orchestral loops and multi-hued sunlight. Drifting and rumbling, these glacial tracks host scraps of songs and narratives frozen inside them, like the personal effects of a lost traveler trapped and carried down the mountain to the sea. Jenssen and Bird proved that music can craft a world of itself; and each one promises to hold you rapt in its microcosmic perfection. (Philip Sherburne)
 
Grooves (USA):
 
Geir Jenssen left his first band, late '80s group Bel Canto, to develop his own musical direction after releasing two albums. He went on to record two techno albums and four singles as Bleep. Adopting the name Biosphere from the sealed, domed experiment in self-sufficient living based in the Arizona desert, Jenssen released two increasingly successful ambient techno albums, Microgravity and Patashnik. After the single "Novelty Waves" from Patashnik was used in a Levi Jean's ad, rather than use the sound as formula for future works, Jenssen moved away from it, his music becoming increasingly less like techno. The last three Biosphere albums, Polar Sequences and Birmingham Frequencies with Higher Intelligence Agency, and Substrata, the last real Biosphere album some 3 years ago, are relatively minimal and spacious, not completely devoid of beats but more ambient than techno.
 
It's hard to isolate any one given track to review as the music fits together wonderfully as a single piece, flowing naturally from tract to track. Jenssen's music is referred to in the press and on his website as having an "arctic sound", and it is easy to appreciate why. The packaging of his albums commonly shows several images of iceflows and frozen landscapes and is printed in shades of blue, grey and white, reflecting the terrain he is familiar with and samples for his music, the word cirque itself is defined as "a semicircular amphitheatre-shaped feature with steep walls carved by a glacier". This fascination or love of his surrounding terrain is reflected in Jenssen's music, conjuring up images of vast expanses of snow, ice and rock, the beauty such a sight is to witness and the inherent danger this can ultimately bring. The Cirque album itself is at least partly inspired by Chris McCandless, who in April 1992 hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness, only to be found dead 4 months later having made a tragic error with his food supply.
 
Jenssen's work acts on a very emotional level, one that encourages you to drift away into a haze of images and scenes brought to you by the music, where spectacular beauty hides unseen danger. Intense and moving, but comforting and soothing at the same time. (Paul Lloyd)
 
Exclaim (Canada):
 
A cirque is a bowl-shaped hollow situated on the side of a mountain. More than just a title, it's the most appropriate metaphor to describe the philosophy behind Biosphere's music - that in order to climb higher, you must first go deeper into the sound as well as your senses. The 11 tracks on Cirque evoke this kind of meditative excursion. They're a series of soundscapes progressing with tremendous subtlety, colour and passion. The album tends to operate in ambient modes, but Biosphere's production style de-emphasises the electronic-ness of it all. Low-attack synths move like oceans and 808s step like footsteps in the forest. The highlights of the album include "Iberia Eterea" and "Algae Fungi (parts 1 and 11)", with their frenetic rhythms rushing like rapids against the layers. With such vivid scenes in the tracks, Cirque is one of the finest pieces of chill-out music to come out in years. (Prasad Bidaye)
 
Humo! (Belgium):
 
Het is weer zomer. Wat zou Geir Jenssen aan het doen zijn in de Nooit Meer Slapen-stad Tromso? Het is er 23 en een half uur per dag licht (euh, nu toch). De zanger van Noordkaap ging er op zoek naar zichzelf. Ik denk niet dat er veel gebeurt. Dat komt goed uit, want op de platen van Biosphere gebeurt ogenschijnlijk nog minder. Biosphere is muziek die niet nog snel wil reserveren in een trendy sushi-restaurant. Biosphere blijft thuis. We roepen dan kluizenaar en loner. En als we er ook electronische muziek bij krijgen zonder blote Ibiza-borsten en Frankfurt bockwurstbeats, denken we aan mensen die hun cd's laten opstaan voor de katten als ze naar de bakker gaan. Waarom trouwens niet? En okee, Biosphere is ambient. Als er een boeddhistisch klooster in de straat was, zaten we misschien daar en niet onder onze koptelefoon. 't Zijn cosmic lovegrooves. Passons! Geir Jenssen woont vlakbij Rusland. De naam Biosphere ligt voor de hand. Biosphere is een ruimtekolonie op aarde in het midden van Arizona, een oefening in leven in afzondering, het zoveelste god game van de wetenschap. Ook de muziek van Biosphere blijft achter glas, en bekijkt de wereld vanop een afstand. Noem het laf en luister verder naar Slipknot. Of noem het moedig, draai hét meesterwerk van het jaar ('Silence is sexy' van Einstürzende Neubauten) nog eens om, en kom dan gerust binnen. Weet nog dat Biosphere veel minder met gesproken samples uitpakt dan op de jaren negentig-klassiekers 'Patashnik' en 'Microgravity', dat er tracks zijn die 'Algae and fungi part 1' én 'Algae and fungi part 11' heten, dat de eerste beat langer op zich laat wachten dan bij een concert van The Orb, en dat 'Cirque' is opgedragen aan Chris McCandless, een man die de eenzaamheid opzocht in de wildernis van Alaska, wiens lijk werd teruggevonden naast een S.O.S.-briefje, en zonder wie Jon Krakauer's boek 'Into the wild' nooit zou zijn geschreven. We zeggen het maar: Biosphere is donkerder en minder soft dan op het eerste gehoor zou kunnen blijken. Wij zijn bijvoorbeeld ooit aan deze trip begonnen door de sample 'It's rather like fairyland isn't it/except for the smell of gasoline and burning flesh'. En ja, u hebt gelijk, die muziek in die zwartwit-jeansbroekenreclame met die condoom kwam van Biosphere. Toen maakte Geir Jenssen nog een klein beetje techno. Dat heeft hij op 'Cirque' helemaal afgeleerd. File under: absolutely new age-free advanced ambient machine music. Op 27 oktober in een schouwburg in Antwerpen. (gvn)
 
Alternative Press (USA):
 
Here's a challenge: Try to keep your eyes open through to the end of this disc. It's impossible. From the opening strains of "Nook & Cranny", with its distant synth refrains and soft fizzy beats, to the haunting last gasp of clipped flutes on "Too Fragile to Walk On", Biosphere wraps the listener's ears in sound as lulling as that heard in the womb. To call this music "techno" does it a great injustice. Biopshere (a.k.a. Norway's Geir Jenssen) uses "real" instruments to flesh out his mostly beatless sound, such as guitar, piano, woodwinds and strings. Combine this with a skill for crafting drifting machine sounds not rivaled since Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, and what follows is warm and comforting, belying the album's glacial artwork. The information accompanying this disc warns of lurking in paradise for too long, but if there is danger awaiting listeners on the other side of Cirque, may they die blissfully ignorant. [Jason Olariu]
 
Outburn (USA):
 
Biosphere have foregone their previous reliance on vocal samples for a stricter ambient approach, which should make them more accessible to a wider audience. While the format is typical laid back ambient, they have mixed in subtle samples that give the music an extra depth not found in most discs of the genre. One track has water sounds and another has crunching sound reminiscent of old vinyl. Listeners who chill out will find themselves drawn happily into the details upon repeated listenings.
 
Sequences (USA):
 
Following in the footsteps of the excellent "Substrata," Geir Jenssen has again served up a tasty selection of his unique brand of ambient morsels. Eleven brief tracks serve as a musical documentary, at least in part, to the true story of a man who hitchhiked to Alaska, ventured off into the wilderness, and was found dead four months later. Before I heard this story, I still found "Cirque" to be a fascinating listen, and even more so afterward. Like "Substrata," "Cirque" is filled with relatively short, rich pieces, mixing assorted sound samples with unusual musical textures. Unlike its predecessor, a noticeable beat runs through much of "Cirque." In most cases, the beat trudges along, the musical equivalent of the lost traveler ambling step by step through the icy wilderness. Each track tends to be repetitive loops, used for maximum hypnotic effect. Jenssen loves to use a wide array of sounds to achieve the desired ambient chill. "Le Grand Dome" has French voices in the background. "Black Lamb & Grey Falcon" has a simple, abrupt piano phrase which repeats endlessly, surrounded by oboe-like samples, drones, and static like one might hear on a vinyl record. "When I Leave" has a very short, staccato piano note which pulses every few seconds throughout. Ambling bass lines and more interesting vocal samples run through it, but the piano is a little too jarring for my taste. More successful is "Iberea Eterea," with a similar pulse, crisp cymbals, and lots of atmosphere. In the end, it seems that's what Biosphere recordings are about - atmosphere. "Moistened and Dried" is just going to sound like sonic wallpaper to some, mostly just dripping water, but I found it fascinating. This is the sort of true experimentation that, in the wrong hands, would just sound like self-indulgent noodling. Somehow, Jenssen manages to always pull it off deftly. "Algae & Fungi" is surprisingly accessible, comparatively speaking, with its buildup of musical intensity as a deep, insistent beat evolves, then devolves into dark, distant echoed rhythms in the latter half of this two-part piece. Unusual flute samples in "Too Fragile to Walk On" make a beautiful closer. Similar and yet quite distinct from "Substrata," "Cirque" offers another unique view into Jenssen's musical mind. Strange, but stirring and compelling.

Wreck This Mess, Amsterdam

"Cirque" on Touch is a great disc from a great generator of beautiful sounds. It is pure northern sound which to me is the 'polar' opposite of say, Berber / Moroccan / Sahara music but in many ways the stark meditative waves and horizontals come back to the point where they are very similar. Apparently Biosphere = Geir Jenssen. He rejected the acclaim he was receiving for previous discs and chose the hermetic over hype or 'mountain climbing over train spotting'. What is beyond ambient? Well, speculative - exploration, music that unravels itself. Music that not only rides and caresses a surface but penetrates it until we get some sense of what its dimensions and intentions are. It is about exploration rather than mimicking. Anyway, it is inspired in part by the story of Chris McCandless who "in April 1992 hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness, only to be found dead 4 months later having made a tragic error with his food supply." Definitely one of my favorites. [Bart Plategna]

Live Review (Norway):
 
NORDLYS, (Norwegian newspaper) 29 SEPTEMBER 2000
 
Technological Shamanism
 
For the first time since the Polar Music Festival in 1995 Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere gave a concert in his hometown. And what a concert! An evening with Biosphere is, in fact, so much more than a normal concert experience. And Geir Jenssen, aka Biosphere, is so much more than an ordinary artist. With his glasses, laptop and arsenal of samplers and sound modules he reminds us of something between a clerk and a space scientist when he is sitting behind his desk in the centre of the stage at Driv. Jenssen led the audience at Driv into a world of ambient sound-scapes and hypnotising beats that we did not want to end. He created powerful atmospheres and took them down again exactly when we expected an explosion. But Wednesday's concert was not only Geir Jenssen. With the performance artist Jony Easterby joining the team, this evening became so much more than just music. Biosphere's sound-scapes were often just an accompaniment to Easterby´s installations. Melting icicles dripping onto miked up mirrors, sparklers patched through effect modules. Even the insides of an electric iron were heated and used as a sound and light source. Stones were hanging from the roof oscillating hypnotically over the stage and creating an almost religious atmosphere in the hall as their shadows moved back and forth. The crowd experienced probably this year's most beautiful and most rewarding performance this evening. Let's hope we don't have to wait another five years before it happens again.
[Håvard Stangnes]

tijd cultuur (Belgium):

Arctische weidsheid Met het album Cirque dat sinds dit voorjaar in de winkel ligt, presenteert de Noor Geir Jenssen of Biosphere een glooiende ambientplaat waar ritmes slechts in kleine straaltjes door een arctische duisternis dringen. Zaterdag zakt de muzikant/ componist uit Tromso, een dorp 800 kilometer boven de poolcirkel, af naar Antwerpen voor een concert in CC Luchtbal. Geir Jenssen ligt met zijn minimale doch melodieuze soundscapes aan de voet van de nieuwe ambientbeweging begin jaren negentig. Biospheres eerste soloalbum Microgravity verschijnt, na een jarenlange collaboratie in de cult popgroep Bel Canto en het acidproject Bleep, in 1992 bij het Gentse R&S Records. Een revelatie. De klankeigenheid van Brian Eno's klassiek geworden Ambient 1: Music For Airports uit 1978 - een plaat die voortbouwt op Pierre Schaeffers musique concrte - vertaalt Jenssen naar een repetitieve structuur; de minimal music en de destijds vanuit Detroit oprukkende techno-underground in navolging. Opvallend is de aanwezigheid van kouwelijke geluiden als gierende wind of afbrokkelend ijs op Microgravity. Maar paradoxaal krijgen die bij Biosphere een warme melodische context. Sinds zijn eerste release als Biosphere werkte Jenssen met een groot aantal muzikanten - Deathprod en Higher Intelligence Agency als voorbeelden - en verschenen drie albums onder de naam Biosphere. Dit voorjaar voegde de muzikant/ componist een vierde aan dat rijtje toe. Na vormexperimenten met beats laat Jenssen die op Cirque opnieuw haast volledig - in sommige nummers schuilt een ijle streep drum 'n' bass of een echo van een rechtlijnige drumloop - achter zich. Wel worden samples van akoestische instrumenten als violen of spaarzame toetsen piano repetitief ingezet. Die elementen maken dat Cirque ruimte ademt: opnieuw schildert Biosphere sonoor zijn geboortestreek, het arctische Tromso. Geir Jenssen: "Eigenlijk stigmatiseer ik mezelf met dit soort muziek te maken. Alleen het feit dat ik noordelijk woon, leverde in het verleden gekke verhalen op. Zo zou ik bijvoorbeeld enkel werken als de zon onder gaat en hier in Tromso is het s winters zeer lang donker. Ik houd van deze streek, in de eerste plaats omdat ik er geboren ben. En in de tweede plaats omdat ik van de natuur, de bergen, het ijs en voornamelijk van de goedlachse bevolking geen afstand kan nemen. De mentaliteit staat hier ver van de gewone wereld en de drukte van de grootstad. Dat terwijl de faciliteiten nagenoeg dezelfde zijn, Tromso heeft bijvoorbeeld een universiteit, een aantal cinema s en theaters." Voor Cirque inspireerde Jenssen zich deels op Into the Wild van John Krakauer. Dat boek vertelt het geromantiseerde verhaal van Chris McCandless, een man die in 1992 naar Alaska trok om er in de wildernis rond te trekken. Vier maanden werd zijn lijk gevonden, na onderzoek bleek dat er wat was misgegaan met zijn voedselvoorraad. Jenssen: "Zelf trek ik vaak de natuur in en het boek van Krakauer bevatte veel van de gevoelens die ik op zulke momenten beleef. In de perstekst staat echter dat ik me liet inspireren door het boek, wat slechts ten dele klopt: het bevestigde mijn bevindingen eerder dan een concept voor de plaat aan te reiken. Een veel belangrijkere inspiratie is mijn dagelijkse omgeving. Die werkt meteen op je in. Toen ik eind jaren tachtig een jaar in het stresserende Belgi‘ leefde, klonk mijn werk bijvoorbeeld helemaal anders (de acidreleases als Bleep, nvdr). Ik heb dus tijd en rust nodig om te componeren en dat kan enkel in Tromso. Voor Cirque kostte het vier jaar." Sinds kort verzorgt Jenssen zijn eigen hoezen. In de booklet van Cirque exposeert hij eigen foto's, samen met Bjorn Arntzen en Jon Wozencroft (de excellente huisfotograaf van het Touch label, een man die een keer natuur en stad tot kringelende vormen abstraheert en een andere keer een woonwijk tot een gealieneerde buurt transformeert). De verstilde landschappen van droogstaande meren en weidse bergformaties passen perfect bij het geluid van de plaat. "Ik fotografeer ongeveer twintig jaar en wil me meer op de relatie tussen beeld en geluid toeleggen. Op dit moment werk ik aan een reeks composities, ingegeven door de ervaring van een brug in het landschap. Fragmenten daarvan zijn in het museum voor actuele kunst in Roskilde onder het multimediale - foto's, video, performance en geluid - project Krydsfelt ge‘xposeerd. In de toekomst staan meer samenwerkingen met andere kunstenaars op mijn verlanglijst." (Ive Stevenheydens)

The Milk Factory (Norway):

Geir Jenssen's career started with fellow Norwegian band Bel Canto. But soon, it appeared that Geir was to explore other grounds, and he left to release his first solo album under the name Bleep. And then, it was Biosphere. A name he would appropriate to make people dance. The high point of his commercial success came in the shape of the ubiquitous Novelty Waves, taken from his second album as Biosphere, Patashnik, and most famous for being the soundtrack of a Levi's advert. But this sudden exposure didn't suit the man. He moved back to his native Tromso, reflected on his fame, and decided it was time to move on. And he did. The next proper Biosphere album would take three years to come out. And Substrata was the antithesis of Patashnik. It was an album of intense atmospheres, of long cold nights and hazy days, using pure sounds, unusual samples and no beats at all. Cirque is different. It is not a rebellious album, more of a reflective work. Organic sounds, pieces of conversations put together and, on some tracks, drums, cohabit in the most harmonious manner. It is almost an extension of his work with Higher Intelligence Agency, or a continuation more like. Cirque is to perfection what Champagne is to alcohol: a must. There are certainly no other artists like Geir Jenssen. The transformation from pop to dance to art act has taken him over ten years, but he has accomplished the journey with pride and determination. Cirque is the result of it. Not the end of the road, more the beginning of something major. [5 stars]