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CD: Biosphere 'Autor de la Lune', The Wire

The Wire August 2004

22/07/2004 :: Biosphere, aka Norwegian Geir Jenssen, was commissioned by Radio France Culture to create a piece for Le Festival de Radio France et Montpellier. On acceptance, he was given duplicate keys to the station’s archive. Refusing to be driven insane by its riches, Jenssen instead homed in on an early 1960s dramatisation of Jules Verne’s De La Terre À La Luna, a prescient tale of manned moon flight, arcing from Florida to a splashdown in the Pacific. As a starting point for his nine-part ‘symphony’, Jenssen spliced samples of its dialogue next to sounds from the MIR space station.

Autour De La Lune is a continuation, building on and refining the original commission. The quaintly microbial, blue hued images of fellow Norwegian Tor-Magnus Lundeby'’ cover painting hint at the music within. Jenssen clearly has a nostalgic glow for the 1950s and 60s electroacoustic palette, which could sound primitive and cosmic at once.

The corporeal presence of the opening “Translation” is subsequently echoed by its increasingly dispersed successors. A repeated fanfare makes its subtle point, shaped out of Gothic organ matter that undulates monotonously against a growing background hum. Its stady pulse acts as a lengthy scene setter, with “Rotation” beginning the tendency for ghostliness that dominates the middle section. Bass physicality mixes with silvery treble chirruping, turning into oscillating radio interference during “Modifiè”. Jenssen is working with the very essence of minimalism, his “Deviation” hanging heavy like humidity just before the storm. The thunder never breaks. “Circulaire” features a different hum, a click heralding its shift, leading to an almost imperceptible intensification. Another click and it draws back. Jenssen has created a field where any microscopic change has an exaggerated impact on the stasis. “Disparu” returns to the character of “Translation”, but with fainter emphasis. By its end, it’s almost not there. “Inverse” brings back the low shudder, then the closing “Tombant” reprises the earlier tonal contrast, but adds a third layer of trebly worming. Like a failing deathbed victim, these movements parade at the lowest point of awareness. Certain car or kitchen speakers will render this disc meaningless, but when heard clean, it’s a mesmerising experience. On Autor De La Lune, Biosphere successfully forces an unnatural interest in vestigial occurences.

MARTIN LONGLEY

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