Biosphere - Shenzhou 3xLP
Biosphere - the project of Norwegian Geir Jensen - has always stood out amongst the practitioners of ambient-electronica by never allowing his music to comfortably fall into the regions of aural wallpaper. His first two albums Microgravity and Patashnik would probably transcend their status as minor classics in their thoughtful recomibinations of techno propulsion and ambient utopianism, if it weren't for the ill-advised (though fashionable at the time) use of extra-terrestrial imagery.
At the height of the ambient-techno phenomenon in 1995 or so, Levi's licensed a Biosphere track off of Patashnik for a jeans commercial, which had the same steroid-injected effect on Biosphere's sales as those of Spiritualized, Trio and Nick Drake with their use in Volkswagen adverts. Wisely, Jensen took the money and ran from commercial success. He has since declared his permanent base of operations to be Tromso, Norway, located some 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle and began working at the time with the reknowned Touch label. Both decisions have resulted in a profound maturation of the Biosphere sound.
Shenzhou is the third Biosphere record for Touch (now reissued through Jensen's Biophon imprint) and continues to describe aural environments that are at once decidedly Arctic, yet wholly inviting and warm. Jensen has drawn a very direct line on this album back to impressionist composer Claude Debussy by basing this album on some very old vinyl recordings of various Debussy pieces. The surface noise crackle may parallel that of the Touch productions from turntablist Philip Jeck, but Shenzhou doesn't extend the comparison beyond their similar source materials. This is distinctly a Biosphere album filled with synaesthetic driftings, subtle rhythmic pulsations and hypnotic loopings, all culled from the muted instrumentation of those Debussy compositions. Biosphere has yet again succeeded in crafting an exceptionally poetic album that is as accessible as it is subtly expressive. Recommended.