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.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.