Biosphere - Shortwave Memories Music Album Reviews

Biosphere - Shortwave Memories Music Album Reviews
Geir Jenssen’s return to ambient techno captures him at his frostiest. It’s his largest-scale and most meticulously crafted release in some time.

Geir Jenssen greeted the last decade with 2011’s N-Plants, a highlight of his long-running career as Biosphere, before spending the next 10 years on low-key experiments in sampling and field recording. Some of these releases are great (Departed Glories, The Hilvarenbeek Recordings). Others are enjoyable if you can get behind the concept (L’Incoronazione di Poppea, half an hour of what sounds like opera samples being sucked up by a vacuum). But none seemed to involve much elbow grease compared to N-Plants or his “Arctic ambient” classic Substrata: They were passion projects, the products of curiosity rather than examples of the craftsmanship he’s capable of.

His new album Shortwave Memories could be seen as a bookend to this period, along with N-Plants. It’s his largest-scale and most meticulously crafted release in that time, and it picks up stylistically where N-Plants left off. He’s limited himself to synths from the late ’70s and early ’80s this time around, but sharp-eared fans will recognize many of the sounds as staples of his arsenal for a while (a chilly preset on “Infinium” first showed up on his two-part “Algae & Fungi” suite from 2000’s Cirque, for instance). Yet Shortwave Memories makes no effort to present itself as a tentpole release, a culmination, or a crowd-pleaser. This is Jenssen at his frostiest, and it’s tonally more akin to Substrata and Cirque than to the antiseptic warmth of N-Plants.

“Tanß” opens the album with nearly a minute of phased, clanking drums before a string synth reluctantly fades in. We hear a lot more of that patch throughout the album, usually ruminating sourly on minor chords. Shortwave Memories is sequenced so all the tracks flow into each other, but it doesn’t build like a DJ set; instead, it seems to continually disassemble and reassemble itself, ducking in and out of long, drumless stretches dominated by those synth strings. “Interval Signal” spends most of its runtime building momentum through subtle tweaks to the central bassline, and the drums don’t enter until two-thirds of the way in, disappearing shortly after as if they were never there. Shortwave Memories is so remote, driven by such strange logic, it’s almost funny.

One reason “Transfigured Express” is such a satisfying ending to the album is because it keeps a groove going for 14 minutes instead of stopping to kill its own momentum. Another is because it’s gorgeous, its bassline blooming into icy florets over a drone weirdly reminiscent of the Residents’ “Hello Skinny.” Technical skill is not usually high on the list of reasons to listen to ambient music, but Jenssen has been composing and playing synths for nearly 40 years, and his chops are obvious. Few artists in ambient electronic music use more interesting chords than he does: His harmonic sensibility verges on baroque pop, setting simple melodies against eccentric chord changes that vacillate between placid and panicked. There’s a whole lot going on here, but it progresses at such a glacial pace it’s easy to think this music is simpler than it is at first.

Shortwave Memories doesn’t come to the listener so much as confront them with an immovable object. Its obstinacy comes not from misanthropy or some affected lack of interest in its audience but from a confidence earned as one of ambient’s most respected figures for over 30 years; chalk it up, perhaps, to an accomplished mountain climber’s taste for a challenge. This is no less an experiment than anything Jenssen released during the last 10 years. It’s just that this time, he’s doing something that he’s really, ridiculously good at.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Biosphere - Shortwave Memories Music Album Reviews Biosphere - Shortwave Memories Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 16, 2022 Rating: 5


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