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Biosphere - Autour de la Lune

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Artist: Biosphere

Album: Autour de la Lune

Label: Touch

Review date: Jun. 22, 2004

Albums like this should come embossed with the warning, “Do not play on crummy little speakers.” Biosphere (a.k.a. Geir Jenssen) makes music that you feel as well as hear. A native of Tromso, Norway, Jenssen uses the Biosphere alias whenever he goes to work in the ambient music mines, and he dug up some especially heavy ore to mold Autour de la Lune.

That may seem ironic given its title, which translates as “Around the moon.” But this is not weightless music; indeed, the central three-track sequence – “Vibratoire,” “Déviation,” and “Circulaire” – sit quite heavily on the chest; subsonic bass frequencies are like that.

Why all the French, one asks? The album is a refinement of a piece that Jenssen composed for Radio France Culture which took its inspiration and some of its raw material from an early-’60s audio realization of Jules Verne’s story De la Terre à la Lune. The opener “Translation” lasts nearly 22 minutes; built from pulsing, looped organ tones, it develops a tension so absorbing it could stand perfectly fine on its own as an EP. But there’s more.

The long, glassy resonations on “Rotation” evoke most overtly space’s vast emptiness. They also set up the record’s loveliest moment, “Modifié,” a masterpiece of shortwave manipulation. Its smudged voices and rusted metal beats materialize out of crackling fog as eerily as anything on The Conet Project. Then comes the album’s aforementioned center of gravity, the series of chest-compression exercises.

Coherent, complete, and not a minute too long despite a running time of almost 75, Autour de la Lune is a deeply affecting and unabashedly lovely recording.

By Bill Meyer

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