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Dropsonde

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Album Review

Geir Jenssen has moved toward something new on Dropsonde — finally on CD after having been issued on LP some months previously. The CD version contains more music, about 25 minutes more. It's the sound and arrangement of this one that grabs the listener's attention quietly and gently, but nonetheless insistently. First, the definition that provides a telltale hint of the album's sound: a "dropsonde" is a radiosonde, dropped by parachute from an aircraft, to obtain soundings of the atmosphere below. The principle applies here in spades. The opening moments of Dropsonde's second track, "Birds Fly by Flapping Their Wings," are familiar to all of Jenssen's ambient music: a gray sonic wash of random elements that could be weather, water, etc., float in from the margins. A synth plays a quiet drone underneath for a few moments. About 40 seconds in, a drum loop that could be from Tony Williams on a Miles Davis record slips in. It's constant, it never moves, but it shimmers just right for the two-chord keyboard sequence to hover above while the other sounds and keyboards subtly move in ghostly fashion through the middle and underneath. The rhythm is hypnotic, but the piece is far from static — it just slowly draws you in. There is emotion in it; it feels good; it feels meditative but alive. The piece gradually strips away everything but the sounds the listener heard coming in. The Miles reference isn't a mistake; in a number of tracks here, Jenssen touches upon the jazz musician's colors, modes, tensions, and edgelessness. It's the Miles of the second quintet and the Miles of In a Silent Way, where mode falls away and the smaller, repetitive vamp leads the way in. Check "Triple Time," "Fall in, Fall Out" (with its shimmering, authoritative military-style loop), and "Arafura," which is perhaps the finest articulation of Jenssen's method; it's spare and beautiful yet lush, with slowly unfolding mystery. Other tracks here, such as "Daphnis 26," offer a more forbidding ambient tone before the loops kick in and send the listener to an edge that never quite materializes. "Altostratus" and the opener, "Dissolving Clouds," are far more minimal, almost random in their computer tones and tunnels. The blissed-out "Sherbrooke" is a minor masterpiece, taking the ambient form into new directions with its utilization of sonic loops that become rhythmic statements under the radar. The album closes with the whispering quietude of "People Are Friendly," with keyboards swelling gently in hushed tones as voices appear and disappear through the mix for the entire ten and a half minutes before the album itself, like the track, disappears into silence, echoing memorably but indescribably in the mind of the listener. Jenssen only records when he has something new to say; he's said it here.

Customer Reviews

Finally, Biosphere on iTunes

I'll be honest, I just bought this album. But, and this is a big but (so to speak), I've been waiting for iTunes to carry Biosphere since iTunes' inception. I just happened to buy this album first because after previewing the rest, this one seemed the most immediately accessible (is a bit more "aggressive" in terms of beats and structure). Biosphere is what I would call new age with a techno flair--something I am beginning to move toward more and more as I age and grow weary of some of my more obvious and repetitive techno collection.

Gorgeous ambient music

This is the only Biosphere record I own, and it makes me want to own more. It contains some of the most brilliant ambient music I've heard, rivalling the best of Eno - "Dissolving Clouds" is one of the most minimal tracks I've ever heard, and it sounds exactly like the title, it stunned me when I first heard it, and it is a brilliant opener to the record. And "Birds Fly By..." is chilling, combining an incredible ambient background with a slamming, yet subtle, jazz drum loop. I give this 4 stars, however, because there are several weaker tracks, particularly by the middle-end of the album, although the closer, "People Are Friends" is a great piece of work. Highly recommended for any fans of ambient.

Re-ligio

This is the album that has stayed with me. I have gone from listening to a lot of radiohead to almost strictly solo electronic acts such as aphex twin, Clark, bibio, and a lot of the other stuff on warp, plus other obscure music as well as some dubstep, and this had always held it's position as some of the purest, most beautiful music I have. It is the music that has been here since the beginning; jennson has captured some bit of essence, some part of our souls that exists in some dimension of our mind.

Favorites that come to mind are "from a solid to liquid" and "sherbrooke." I literally shed tears when I hear the latter.

Make this music part of your life.

Biography

Born: May 30, 1962 in Tromsø, Norway

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Biosphere's Geir Jenssen hails from Tromso, Norway, a city 500 miles above the Arctic Circle. A founding member of quasi-new age Norwegian trio Bel Canto, Jenssen recorded a pair of albums with that group for Belgium's Crammed label before departing to record solo, first as Bleep, then as Biosphere. He released a number of Bleep singles through the late '90s on Crammed subsidiary SSR, as well as the full-length The North Pole by Submarine, issued in 1990 and an acknowledged precursor of what became...
Full Bio