Biosphere: Departed Glories

Vast, open expanses; flowing places full of emptiness and gaps; but at the core, always one thing: life.


Departed Glories

Label: Smalltown Supersound
US Release Date: 2016-09-23
UK Release Date: 2016-09-23

Want to get calm? Geir Jenssen has been lulling us to sleep with his icy soundscapes since 1991. He is the king of calm, the sultan of breathing, and the chief of chill. His new record, Departed Glories, is everything the ambient fan could dream of. Geir is probably sitting on his throne of ice, a wry smile on his face, knowing that he has made another subtle masterpiece.

Fans of Biosphere are most likely tuning in to this record hoping for Substrata 2. I know I was. Departed Glories isn’t that, but in a positive way. We have the open expanses of extinction, but instead of ice and cold, we are met with grass and sky. This record could perfectly soundtrack a silent film about rebuilding after a nuclear holocaust. Life hides in the shadows as the tracks move on, rich with obsolescence. If Steve Roach’s ambient universe is stocked with the spirituality of the Arizona desert, Geir Jenssen’s ambient universe is the silence around a campfire after everyone is asleep.

The woman on the cover looks ancient but comfortable, captured on her way to a party after a day of utilitarian duties. A mysterious photo of a mysterious woman we will never meet because the photo -- taken by Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky -- is over 100 years old. The voices that echo through the record sound like her voice calling to us in words we can’t hear. Think Julianna Barwick if she didn’t care about melody, only raw emotion. If the synthesizer had been around 100 years ago, I would believe this music was made then. It sounds timeless, from another epoch, more like it was created at Stonehenge than on a laptop.

Commenting on the individual tracks would be a waste. They all flow together, in and out of your consciousness with no regard for anything other than the whole. Geir could have gone Prince on us and released this as one track. As it continues, it becomes the true background that Brian Eno wanted. Biosphere can join a long line of classic ambient artists: Stars of the Lid, Aphex Twin, Tim Hecker, Steve Roach, Gas, and Global Communication. Does Biosphere belong in that list? Absolutely, and Departed Glories is just another reason.

The word biosphere refers to places in the atmosphere, or ground, or hydrosphere that contain life. Without life, there is no biosphere. It’s easy to understand why Geir named his project after that. His music is full of vast, open expanses; flowing places full of emptiness and gaps; but at the core, always one thing: life.

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