Biosphere: Wireless: Live at the Arnolfini, Bristol

Wireless is Biosphere's live performance at Touch's 25th Anniversary celebration, and it provides a nice recap of the veteran ambient producer's finest hours.


Wireless: Live at the Arnolfini, Bristol

Label: Touch
US Release Date: 2009-06-09
UK Release Date: 2009-05-18

In 2007, Biosphere -- the primary vehicle of Tromsø, Norway's Geir Jenssen -- played a set at the Arnolfini Arts Center for Touch 25, a concert series commemorating the 25th anniversary of Jon Wozencroft's Touch label. In a way, it was also a celebration of Biosphere's own storied career, which began in 1991 and continues to this day. Jenssen is the recipient of a five-star rating on All Music Guide, and his 1997 LP Substrata is widely regarded as a classic of ambient techno. He composed the soundtrack to a Norwegian film, collaborated with scene stalwarts Deathprod and the Higher Intelligence Agency and kept his proper solo output coming at a respectable pace. Jenssen looked fame in the eye when his song "Novelty Waves" appeared in a Levi's commercial in 1995, and then he turned away from it, choosing instead to satisfy himself with altering and updating his sparse panoramas of electronic gelidity.

If anything about Wireless has the air of a victory lap, it would only be because we believe that Jenssen now deserves to take one. But the music itself is modest, as it always has been, and the presentation lacks showmanship: Aside from the crisp breakbeat added to "When I Leave" (a nearly beatless track from 2000's Cirque), Biosphere is laissez-faire with his material and keeps the mood quite tranquil. To this end, he has chosen his selections carefully: three pieces from his most recent full-length, Dropsonde (2006), two from Cirque, two from Substrata and the title track from 2002's Shenzhou. (Wisely, he opted to leave out 2004's uncommonly stony Autour de la Lune and his first two records, 1992's Microgravity and 1994's Patashnik, which are beginning to show their age.) The result is part career overview, part aural montage, with an emphasis on the kind of stirring, emotive drift that has represented the singular Biosphere experience for more than a decade.

The live setting puts an interesting spin on this music. A few songs lack the depth of their studio counterparts. "Birds Fly by Flapping Their Wings", for example, was far more resonant and less uniformly mixed on Dropsonde than it is here, and it's easy to detect the difference. But Biosphere's material is intimately linked with the locale that Jenssen calls home, a city 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and Wireless gives the impression that it's happening out on the ice somewhere, played loudly and from far away. You can almost feel the chilly European air swirling between the audience and the speakers. Besides hearing such beloved ambient standards as "Kobresia" wrapped in a unique package, the set's real draw is "Calais Ferryport", a previously unheard track that brings Jenssen's production prowess to great heights. Longtime followers will find that the music holds up surprisingly well in a performance situation; likewise, Wireless is as good a place as any for newcomers to begin their journey into Biosphere's extensive, alluring catalogue.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.