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Biosphere - Wireless - Live at The Arnolfini, Bristol

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Artist: Biosphere

Album: Wireless - Live at The Arnolfini, Bristol

Label: Touch

Review date: Jul. 27, 2009

Give Geir Jenssen credit for not staying still. Ever since the Norwegian electronicist made the financially dubious decision to drop out of Bel Canto 20 years ago and began following the path that led him to perform under the name Biosphere, he’s let his music develop at its own rate and done fundamentally what he wanted to do. While this hardly seems like a recipe for success given the short half-life of electronic music trends, it has paradoxically contributed to his longevity; by not playing the game of keeping up with the latest beats, he invites fans to instead keep up with him.

But he might be asking a bit too much of them with Wireless. Not that it’s a terribly demanding listen; quite the contrary, it’s a quintessential live album. Recorded in October 2007 and released 19 months later, it samples a decade of Biosphere music in typical greatest hits fashion. Its 11 tracks take you through Jenssen’s various stages – chill-out facilitator, textural sculptor, sonic appropriator, and atmospheric tunesmith. And it represents each phase with Touch Music’s usually scrupulous attention to audio and visual satisfaction; one labelmate, environmental sound documenter Chris Watson recorded the concert, and another, BJ Nilsen (a.k.a. Hazard), mastered it.

But all that plush sound cultivation points up a problem; not all Biosphere music is created equal. “When I Leave’s” upfront beats and obvious loops seem awfully simplistic when heard near “Calais Ferryport’s” rich layers of environmental and electronic sound. And when you A-B the tracks from Biosphere’s last studio record Dropsonde with their Wireless reproductions, they just don’t sound that different. Do you really need a souvenir for an event that in all likelihood you did not attend? If so, Wireless awaits you. But if you want to hear Biosphere at the top of his game, try Autour de la Lune instead.

By Bill Meyer

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