Although I haven't reviewed a Biosphere release since the long-ago Substrata (which has subsequently been re-released as well), I've kept tabs on Geir Jenssen and his output as Biosphere over the past several years. With his wide body of work, he's worked his way up my list as one of the most consistent and creative artists working in the genre of ambient electronic music. He's collaborated with both Deathprod (reworking Arne Nordheim) and HIA (on two separate releases), and has still managed to release albums at a fairly steady rate.
Autour De La Lune is the newest effort from Biosphere and it's a release of massive proportions. 9 tracks clock in at almost 75 minutes and find Jenssen again moving in a different direction in terms of his sound. While some artists keep adding more layers to their palette, it seems that Biosphere is intent on slowly peeling back pieces of sound to reveal what's underneath. His masterful Shenzou was a stripped-down reworking of classical music that wass subtle and beautiful (and probably my favorite work of his), while this newest effort finds him at an even more minimal level.
Originally developed for a Radio France broadcast, the album is a mixture of sampled dialogue from an old Jules Verne (De La Terre A La Lune) broadcast, sounds recorded on the MIR space station, and the incorporation of original compositions. The opening track of "Translation" sets the stage at nearly 22 minutes, a super slowly-evolving piece that ripples sheets of low-end under high-end tones that palpitate with a slowly-increasing intensity before edging off again. Bits of broken dialogue slowly creep into following tracks while the same sort of sound palette again dominates. "Rotation" finds ultra-deep bass throbbing in the background while pinging tones bounce like transmissions from another system.
Listening to the release, it's hard not to imagine the exploration of space. It's a bit stark and austere, and while there is a touch of human element (the fragmented spoken samples), Autour De La Lune feels more like something you'd hear as your malfunctioning spacecraft slowly drifted out of the range of communications and into a great unknown void. In places it's downright creepy and in others it's oddly soothing, but this is definitely a different release for Jenssen. With only a very few subtle melodies creeping in (most notibly on the beautiful "Disparu"), this is a heady release that could easily be the soundtrack for either stargazing or an isolation tank. Don't listen to this one on crummy speakers, because you simply won't get the full effect. Team it up with Eno's Apollo and Into Forever by Manual & Icebreaker International for almost 3 hours of deep space listening.