I'd heard the name Biosphere dropped many times over the course of being an electronic music collector, but I'd never really followed-up on them or done any research. I'd never actually heard any of their music, though, until I actually got my hand on this release.
One of the first things I was reminded of while listening to this disc is that feeling I had when I bought a "Chill Out" compilation on Instinct records back in 1993. It was one of the first releases that I heard that really got me hooked on ambient music (yeah, I'm a late bloomer I guess). It was a release that I could study to, fall asleep to, or simply turn up and really enjoy the different textures and construction of the music. Substrata really feels like kind of an updated album of that classic ambient music to me after all of the more experimental things I've been listening to lately. While it does have a darker edge, it seems interested in floating you along in it's light, nicely-constructed ether of sound.
The short opening track on the disc entitled "As The Sun Kissed The Horizon" really just sounds like a field recording at the edge of a playground with a plane flying around in the distance. Every once in awhile, you can hear little kids laughing, but it's all over soon and fades into the very nice second track "Poa Alpina." After the somewhat low-fidelity sound on the first track, it envelopes you with a low-end bass wash while synth strings and a repetitive little melody plays over the top of it all. Just before the end of the track, the gentle sound of a rain shower is encorporated, leading into the next song. It's one of their many uses of recognizable sounds on the disc, and it helps to give things a little bit more of an organic feel, as well as again reminding me of the ambient music of old.
About the harshest track on the disc is the somewhat creepy sounding track "Hyperborea." It starts out with what could be the distorted sounds of animals feeding, but it soon drops down into the background somewhat the track goes into it's great layering of sound again while a super-echoed sample of a man talking plays out over the weird sounds. The disc soon goes back into the soothing washes for awhile before arriving at the somewhat haunting sounding, "Antennaria." Things take on a more minor tone, and in combination with some strange chime sounds and a muffled choir, the effect is a bit eerie.
Really, it's one of the better straight-ambient albums I've heard in awhile. It's creepy in parts and beautiful in others and with 11 tracks all mixed together, it makes for a nice 60-minute journey of sound. Like a good ambient disc, it works well both in the foreground or background.