TO:50 – Biosphere “Substrata 2”

DCD – 55:20/53:32

Biosphere’s 2nd CD for Touch after Cirque [Touch # TO:46, 2000] is a double CD
in digipac designed by Jon Wozencroft.

CDOne – Substrata
Originally released in 1997 on All Saints Records, this remastered version of Substrata contains 11 tracks with a total length of 55:20. “…by many (the undersigned included) considered to be the finest ambient album of the 1990s” [Motion/State 51], and “Three years after its release, BIOSPHERE’s ‘Substrata’ is already being recognised as one of the all time greats of deep electronica.” [Top Magazine]

CDTwo – Man with a Movie Camera
contains 9 tracks, total length 53:32. The first 7 tracks consist of the soundtrack
to “Man with a Movie Camera” [Vertov, 1926, USSR], originally commissioned for the Tromsø International Film Festival in 1996, released here for the first time. The last 2 tracks, Endurium and The End of the Cyclone, were originally released on the limited edition Japanese version of Substrata in 1997 – they have never before been released outside Japan.

Track list:

CDOne – Substrata
1. As The Sun Kissed The Horizon
2. Poa Alpina
3. Chukhung
4. The Things I Tell You
5. Times When I Know You’ll Be Sad
6. Hyperborea
7. Kobresia
8. Antennaria
9. Uva-Ursi
10. Sphere of No-Form
11. Silene

CDTwo – A Man with a Movie Camera
1. Prologue
2. The Silent Orchestra
3. City Wakes Up
4. Freeze-Frames
5. Manicure
6. The Club
7. Ballerina

Bonus tracks:
8. The Eye of the Cyclone
9. Endurium


Bookmat (Web):

A new album from Geir Jensson aka Biosphere is always a special event here at the Neck. This is not strictly a new album, but the usual evocative Touch packaging and photography give it a whole new character. This double CD consists of the ‘the finest ambient album of the 1990s’ Substrata, originally released on All Saints in 1997, here in a freshly re-mastered version. Musically well beyond the confines of beauty, subtle, haunting, lush, stately – the type of music that takes you to so many different places. Classics in the truest sense. The second CD ‘Man With A Movie Camera’ is Geir’s commision for the Tromsø International Film Festival of 1996 on a reworking of the Russian silent film with the same name dating back to 1929 from director Dziga Vertov. On this work Geir collaborates with Per Martinson aka Mental Override who also joined up with Biosphere as part of the ‘Nordheim Transformed’ piece on Rune Grammophon. To complete this astonishing set you then get extra tracks from the Japanese version of Substrata. Essential. [net]:

To call Substrata a good album is an understatement. It has been described as one of the finest Ambient albums of the Nineties. As far as I’m concerned you can scrub out the bit about the Nineties. Biosphere, a.k.a. Geir Jenssen from Norway, has created some of the most amazing Ambient music I’ve heard in a very long time. Substrata is an album to play at full volume in sub-zero conditions. This re-release of Substrata is a lovingly-designed two CD edition containing two extra tracks that were released on the Japanese version of the album, along with the Man With a Movie Camera. In 1996 Geir Jenssen was asked to write a new soundtrack for Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov’s 1929 silent film of the same name, and hopefully one day the score and film will be placed together in some medium or other. The Japanese tracks are the only tracks on either CD that can be said to have a beat in any conventional electronic sense of the word. They are good mechanical forward moving Trance tracks. Apart from these the album is beat free. It pulsates slowly and statically. The music is beautifully still. Tracks like “The Things I Tell You” and “Chukhung” are made up of delicate hovering melodies. “Hyperborea” is as ice cold and austere as possible. “Sphere of No Form” is at points soft then harsh then soft again. Large Buddhist horns of infinite length obliterate the barely perceptible sound of the wind; in time the harsh endless echoed horns are themselves replaced by lush analogue ripples. The soundtrack for Man With A Movie Camera is haunting and colossal. It is a collected of wonderfully crafted soundscapes. Concrete sound mixes with pulsations, drifting distant voices, and dislocated moments of sampled music. Superb stuff.

adverse effect vol 2 no. 5 (UK):

Can Norway’s Geir Jenssen elevate his Biosphere to a level any higher…? For over a decade now, he has consistently managed to find new glacial corners to explore with this magnificent platform which now favours collating sheets of sound together over the beat-driven material of his earlier work. However, it’s not all shimmering icicles and Thomas Köner-esque post-industrial scrapings ‘n’ musings on display here. Rather, traces of Jenssen’s original post-techno ripples can still be found ‘neath the finely crafted filmic swathes, dialogue snippets, occasional gtr strums and archaic samples. Absolutely everything on this double-set hangs together sublimely and in a manner rarely found in such circles at the moment. The very fact that digi-exploration has moved into different realms during more recent years has actually afforded Jenssen the opportunity to take his own pursuits even further. Everything might suggest a modicum of familiarity on the surface but, clichés aside, repeated listenings reveal apparently different patterns of sound every time. And, sure, the very fact that each and every Biosphere release seems to document several degrees of genuine evolution speaks for itself, really. [RJ]


Geir Jenssen, a.k.a. Biosphere, released Substrata in 1997, an ambient album that went unnoticed by most, quietly sliding beneath the musical collective consciousness.Thankfully, the UK’s Touch label has decided to unearth this gem and reissue it along with a second disc that include’s Jenssen’s soundtrack to the Dziga Vertov black-and-white classic film Man with a Movie camera. The music within is starkly beautiful, glacial and slow-paced in its movement, much like the scenery of Jenssen’s native Norway. Piano chords drift over snowy banks of synths; melodic loops build, only to break off slowly and eventually reform. Occasional voices drift in and out of the mix, just at the edge of one’s range of hearing. Lucid dreaming in the form of sound, immense and grandiose in its scope. [Brock Phillips]

The Wire, UK:

‘Substrata’ has quietly garnered a reputation as one of the last decade’s notable Ambient recordings, and while this remastering does not diverge radically from the 1997 edition on All Saints – edges are softened, balance gently tweaked – having the excuse to listen to it anew reveals a logic often obscured by its subaquatic haze. Steeped in echo, ‘Substrata’ uses a healthy dose of ambient noise (airplane buzz, street sounds, bird calls) to flesh out its liquid lyricism; it treads the line between music and sound, but errs just on this side of music, returning again and again to deep, resonant melodies. But elsewhere Biosphere’s temporal suspension, via cycling arpeggios and long, blurred sustain, updates classic Ambient music’s indeterminacy with string laden pastoralism. Of the two bonus tracks included from the original Japanese edition, ‘Eardurium’, which revolves uneasily around a single focal point, shows Geir Jenssen at his most hypnotic, applying the trappings of Techno (metallic, repetative beats, four bar chord progressions) to an Ambient sound palette that slips mercurially into less recognisable terrain. The second CD features Biosphere’s 1996 soundtrack (co-produced with Mental Overdrive’s Per Martinsen) for Dziga Vertov’s 1929 silent film, ‘Man With A Movie Camera’. Like ‘Substrata’, with which it shares samples, the score makes generous use of field recordings, but it’s more ominous and less melodic. When played along with a video of the film, it makes for a curious accompaniment, pitting Biosphere’s mellifluous drones against Vertov’s choppy montage. What’s fascinating, in pairing the two, is the realisation that music so rarely has approximated cinematic syntax; it’s disappointing then, that Biosphere’s soundtrack doesn’t hew to the language of cinema more closely. After Vertov’s delicate tightrope walk between representation and non-representation, you wish for something less patently musical, and more like Chris Watson’s field recordings. Of course, a jerry-rigged home viewing is bound to produce some fortuitous moments, entirely unplanned (and unrepeatable) given the difficulty of cuing the tracks precisely. Otherwise Biosphere’s thousand league ambiance has always been too fluid to mimic Vertov’s disjointed sequences. [Philip Sherburne]

Other Music, USA:

Two discs of the best work of Biosphere, the project (mostly) of Norwegian Geir Jenssen since 1991. “Substrata”, originally released in 1997 on Eno’s All Saints records, has been cited more than once as one of the most beautiful ambient albums ever recorded. Gentle and deep (and now remastered), it has a lot in common with Eno’s own work, from the clearer parts (there’s muted singing here and there, lots of softly echoing warm guitar and bamboo chimes), to the immersive soundscapes of innocent, not ominous drones and electronic gurgles. The second CD in this set is the ‘soundtrack’ to Dziga Vertov’s 1929 classic abstract film “Man with a Movie Camera”, that Biosphere executed as per the instructions left behind by Vertov. This is an essential bit of film as well as musical history — Vertov imagined a musique concrete soundtrack in 1929 (!), but technology wasn’t quite up to it yet. It consists of more deep hums, ship’s whistles and altered church bells, the sounds of twenties nightclubs, jazz bands, industry and railroad yards fading in and out, words in a thick Russian accent. A fantastic recording, both historically and in sound alone –combined with Biosphere’s best album, this package is as about as essential to those interested in the history of the avant-garde or just want something lovely to do yoga to. At the very least, this is the best Biosphere recording to have. [RE]

Brainwashed [net]:

Geir Jenssen’s 1997 Biosphere album has been remastered and nicely re-packaged with a bonus disc for Touch. Disc 1 is “Substrata” proper and disc 2 is a new, previously unreleased, commissioned soundtrack for the 1929 Russian film “Man with a Movie Camera”, plus the 2 beat infused bonus tracks from the Japanese edition of the album. Both discs, nearly an hour apiece, offer a continuous, deep ambient jigsaw puzzle – disc 2 being the noisier with a more urban/industrial aura. We slowly, willingly drift along through chilled out spaces and cityscapes, natural hums and environmental residues, electronic pads and blips, the clutter of metals and trinkets, disembodied voices and appropriated musical passages, synth strings and plucked/strummed strings (“Kobresia” in particular settles into a beautiful stringed stasis), softly malleted tones and some subtle rhythmic pulsations. Very soothing, very calming, very Arctic. Jenssen’s reclusive Norwegian locale undoubtedly influences the vast, dark and cold nature of his music. But what’s surprising to me is how emotionally cold much of it also seems despite it’s surface beauty … a sort of depressing, lonely void. That feeling overwhelms me here at times, but sometimes you want to feel that way, know what I mean? [Mark Weddle]

VITAL, Netherlands:

I found the presence of Biosphere on Touch a bit odd. The ambientesque sound next to Rehberg & Bauer, Mika Vainio or John Duncan? The covers of Touch usually reflect the difference between technology (music) and landscape (cover photos), but with Biosphere this difference is no longer apperent. As a follow up to Cirque, and on the coincidence of the Touch series of concerts happening right now. This 2CD sees older works in print again. ‘Substrata’ is the follow up to Patashnik, which I thought was a brilliant album (it still is a landmark of ambient techno by the way). I never heard ‘Substrata’ the first time it was around, maybe I lost interest in ambient? Because both ‘Microgravity’ and ‘Patashnik’ were landmarks of techno meeting ambient, well or vice versa, ‘Substrata’ is a downright ambient album, using field recordings, stretched waves of synthetic sound, next to sampled acoustic instruments, such as guitars and piano’s. Mellow stuff throughout, no beats here. I could not say if this is really taking a new stand on the throdden paths of ambient, but it’s very nice work indeed. Maybe, after all, I didn’t loose my interest in ambient… As I argumented (sic) a few weeks back, I have nothing with film, so I rarely see one, so I just know about the Dziga Vertov film ‘Man With A Movie Camera’, but I have never seen it. Vertov left instructions for the music to his silent film and Geir interpreted these for his soundtrack. This is the Biosphere that the adventurous listener in me likes to see. Intercepting with radio transmissions, or maybe even ghostly messages, who knows, sitting next to very minimal bass beats. The remaining two tracks on this CD were originally on the Japanese edition of Substrata and could be right of Patashnik. Full beat stuff, nice keyboard tunes and more radio.

Incursion [Canada]:

Substrata, Geir Jenssen’s classic ambient album originally released by All Saints Records in 1997, gets the “remastered and repackaged with bonus material” treatment by Touch. The bonus material in question consists of Jenssen’s soundtrack to Man With A Movie Camera, a Russian silent film from 1929 by Dziga Vertov, as well as two tracks originally released with the Japanese edition of Substrata. The soundtrack was originally commissioned for the Troms¿ International Film Festival in 1996, and is available here for the first time. Released as a 2CD set with beautiful packaging (courtesy of Jon Wozencroft and Heitor Alvelos), it seems a little strange that this should have been released at a time when the All Saints edition is still readily available. Substrata is a quintessential Biosphere record, and, along with the more recent Cirque CD (also on Touch) it is essential listening for any ambient fan; distinctive, dream-like atmospheres, slow rhythms and narratives from distant voices carry you through this opaque, icy sound world. The second disc, Man With A Movie Camera, uses a lot of the same source material used in Substrata (as in the vocal samples, for example, which if my ears are not deceiving me, are sourced from Twin Peaks), but the structures are more tight, periodically erupting into more energetic electro rhythms, matched by the arctic stillness that characterises so much of Biosphere’s work. Purists should note that the original Substrata was not restructured or reworked for this release, just remastered, which also means that unless you’re a die-hard Biosphere fan looking to own his complete works, this release probably won’t serve much of a purpose if you already have the original. That being said, since its original release four years ago, Substrata has quickly become an ambient classic, owing to Jenssen’s unique sound, a strange, compelling world of loneliness seen through a lens clouded by ice and snow. If you have yet to be introduced to his work, this is a perfect place to start. [Richard di Santo]

Pro 7 [Germany]:

Stell Dir vor, Du sitzt in Deinem KŸhlschrank. Zun?chst ist alles ganz still, doch dann rauscht es leise durch die Leitungen. Wasser tropft, gluckst und gefriert wieder. Entfernte Stimmen quatschen unverst?ndlich vor sich hin. Jemand pocht von au§en mit einem Metallstab gegen das Geh?use. Und dann surren Dir auch noch elektronische Loops aus dem GemŸsefach entgegen. Wenn Du jetzt denkst “Wie um alles in der Welt komme ich hier wieder raus?” – dann ist das arktische Elektronik-Doppelalbum “Substrata”/”Man With A Movie Camera” wohl eher nicht Dein Fall. Falls Du aber zu den Leuten geh?rst, die verrŸckt genug sind, das cool zu finden – dann sind die eisigen Klanglandschaften des norwegischen KŸnstlers Geir Jenssen alias Biosphere wohl genau das Richtige, um Deine Sinne zu sensibilisieren. “Ambient” – das dŸrfte wohl der passende Begriff fŸr diese Soundgebilde sein. Elektronik-Pionier Brian Eno stand hier Pate. Warum das ein Doppelalbum mit verschiedenen CD-Titeln ist? “Substrata” wurde ehemals 1997 ver?ffentlicht. Nun haben wir es mit den remasterten Aufnahmen zu tun: Leise Dubs ver?ndern sich minimal, gehen ineinander Ÿber. An einer akustischen Gitarre wird vertr?umt herumgezupft. Schemenhaft kŸndigt sich immer wieder neues Soundgeschwader an. NatŸrlich gaaanz leise. Und gaaanz soft. Manchmal klingt das recht esoterisch. Meistens aber eher minimalistisch. Konzentrieren wir uns aber auf CD2, “Man With A Movie Camera”, die v?llig neu ist: Ein digitales Orchester bittet zum Tanz (der wohl eher im Kopf stattfindet): Hin und wieder l?uten Kuhglocken, Wortfetzen jagen durchs Ger?uschgeflecht. In “Freeze Frames” dr?hnt ein Presslufthammer, der zum hektischen Herzschlag mutiert. Eine Chansonette ˆ la Edith Piaf gibt irgendwo weit entfernt ein Lied zum Besten. “Manicure” beginnt mit pl?tscherndem Wasser – dazu spielt im Nebenzimmer ein barockes Tanzorchester. Pl?tzlich zischt es laut und pausenlos. Unvermeidlich dr?ngt sich die Frage auf: “Oh Gott, habe ich zu Hause den Gashahn zugedreht?” Mitunter erwischt man sogar Hook-Lines. Und genau dann – wenn die ganze intellektuelle Avantgarde mal bei Seite geschoben wird – entwickelt sich “Man With A Movie Camera” zum genialen Minimal-Techno. Einiges klingt sogar symphonisch (“Endurium”). Biosphere macht es dem Zuh?rer nicht gerade leicht. Wenn Du Zeit und Lust hast, Dich auf eine neue Erfahrung einzulassen – dann besorge Dir dieses Album. Denn sich in den KŸhlschrank zu setzen und auf Ger?usche zu warten – das dŸrfte Dich ungleich teurer zu stehen kommen. (mip)

re:mote induction [UK]:

Four years after its original release, Biosphere’s Substrata is this time released through Touch in a re-mastered format and with an additional CD containing the Man With A Movie Camera soundtrack and two bonus tracks that were originally released on the Japanese version of Substrata. Of course, the packaging has been redesigned and is now in keeping with the design work on recent Touch releases such as the Light compilation of work by Biosphere, Hazard and Fennesz. Disk 1 of this release is the Substrata album, one that is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Geir Jenssen’s career so far. Listening to the album for the first time in a while I certainly found it pleasurable to be reacquainting myself with this release. For myself, I can’t say for sure if this is the pinnacle; I can say it is a breathtaking album. The sound of the album as a whole could be easily considered to be typical Biosphere with pristine glacial soundscapes and minimal melodies floating and injecting themselves into the release. That would only be telling half of the story. Despite it being easy to classify the album this way, the real interest for me happens where the less expected elements filter into the composition. Sphere Of No Form is one such example, above the atmosphere of the piece a horn blows off in the distance. Not the pomp of European brass more a natural resonance of wood shaping the sound. Joining the horn comes the striking of bells or chimes that shimmer adding another layer to the dense yet serene composition. Elements that would not necessarily associate themselves with the cold tundra of the soundscape finding a perfect home in this piece. Another highlight of the album is the expectant Chukhung whose bass level pulses with synthesis pushing and resting gradually building interplay with other melodic components. There is a definite thought of the synthetic in this piece, but a notion that has been forged into a more organic nuance. Through the track, the arrangement remains sparse and sounds never threaten to overwhelm but yet the level of urgency ramps up as the songs runs it course. A final track I would single out for a specific mention is Times When I Know You’ll Be Sad with a gentle guitar melody lifting out of the ambience to be joined by a distant vocal. An almost pop-like quality that shouldn’t fit in with the flow of the album but somehow does before slowly submerging again beneath the soundscapes. By the end of this album it all too apparent that the work is strong throughout, the atmosphere is never shattered, broken or even cracked. The album exists as a whole and though pleasure can be had from the individual compositions the real revelation comes from the album in its entirety. Moving on to consider Disk 2 of the release it is here that I move into uncharted waters. Having never heard the Man With A Movie Camera soundtrack or the Substrata bonus tracks but being a huge fan of Jenssen’s work I moved with definite anticipation. The Man With A Movie Camera soundtrack starts with a vocal sample from the early part of the last century, a sample that is clearly linked with the early days of cinema. From there the atmospherics are generated, echoing in space chimes and tones become the focal points. A mood is set for the piece here, a mood of ambience in a familiar style for Jenssen. This mood becomes the centre of the work with occasional stabs of strings, archaic vocal samples or click beats filtering into the work. A pleasant work that is definitely one to relax into rather than actively pursue. Finally to the bonus tracks from the Japanese release of Substrata. The initial impression is somewhat strange as these do not seem to quite fit with the mold of Substrata although perhaps this is because of the flow within that work as a whole. Stylistically, I would place these tracks as somewhere between the sound of Substrata but with a more techno oriented slant like that of earlier work such as Patashnik. Even so, the tracks are pleasant and serve well to round off the CD. In considerring this release as an entire package I can’t really do anything other than recommend it. In particular I think this works well as introduction to the work of Geir Jenssen as it covers a wide range of his sound. However, if you already have Substrata then whether this is worth investing in is really a question of how much you appreciate his work.

The Sheffield Telegraph [UK]:

Follow-upto one of the best albums of last year. Cirque, the Norwegian twosome have remastered their 1997 landmark ambient album Substrata and coupled it with their 1996 soundtrack to Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (also done by our own In the Nursery). Once again it is the textures, gentle beats, chilled out samples that give Biosphere’s music such a unique atmosphere.

Tandem News [Canada]:

The 1997’s top ambient release, originally on Eno’s All Saints label, has been remastered and repackaged with the two bonus tracks from the expensive Japanese version. Working through the dark season in his home studio above the Arctic circle, Norway’s Geir Jenssen made a name for himself with early ’90s albums for the Belgian R&S label and a collaboration with German chill-out king Pete Namlook (Fires of Ork). Substrata perfectly fit within Eno’s aesthetic of an electronic music that evokes geographic and psychological space. Jenssen’s innovation on Substrata was to contrast acoustic instruments with his deep synth sonics, making subtle dramatic gestures with acoustic guitar in “Poa Alpina,” autoharp in “Chukhung,” and symphonic samples in the remotely grand “Kobresia.” In retrospect these sounds were step one towards the ECM-ish textures on last year’s brilliant Cirque release. Also in this double CD set is Jenssen and Per Martinsen’s never before released music for Man With A Movie Camera, commissioned for the Troms¿ International Film Festival in 1996. This silent film documentary made by Dziga Vertov in 1929 toured the festival circuit in Europe, garnering similar commissions for the musical groups In The Nursery and Cinematic Orchestra.

Blow Up[Italy]:

Doppio cd in bella edizione digipack disegnata al solito da Jon Wozencroft mentore di casa Touch. Il primo cd va detto subito non ? altro che una versione rimasterizzata di “Substrata” il cd uscito su All Saints nel 1997 che qualcuno ma non il sottoscritto considera il pia bell’album ambient dei 90. Disco senz’altro discreto, giˆ recensito al tempo anche su queste pagine, la cui nuova edizione suona semmai ancora pia ovattata ed impalpabile. Vanno segnalate invece due bonus track The Eye of the Cyclone ed Endurium finora disponibili solo nella versione giapponese del cd, decisamente pia metalliche ed in sintonia con certa minimal techno cara al musicista di Tromsoe.Vale la pena invece di spendere qualche parola in pia sul secondo cd in questione: “Man With A Movie Camera” come dal titolo ? una delle tante possibili colonne sonore del celeberrimo L’uomo con la Macchina da Presa, il fantastico film muto diretto da Dziga Vertov nel 1929. Questa soundtrack ? stata commissionata a Geir Jenssen-Biosphere dall’International Film Festival di Tromsoe nel 1996. Il musicista dopo aver letto le istruzioni scritte lasciate da Vertov per l’accompagnamento musicale del film, ha naturalmente agito secondo la sua sensibilitˆ ed immaginario sonoro, e utilizzando alcuni campioni da “Substrata”, ha messo in fila una sequenza di brani dal sicuro effetto cinematico, anche se non sono convinto siano tanto adatti al film di Vertov. Troppa forse la loro densitˆ, o potremmo dire paradossalmente troppa musicalitˆ. Ma il disco funziona bene di per se stesso, con un Biosphere nella sua veste pia dark ambient, fitta di field recordings, voci aliene, atmosfere sospese tra etere e materia. (7 e 7/8 rispettivamente) (Gino Dal Soler)

Evolver (net):

Lebenszeichen aus einer gefrorenen Welt “Substrata/Man With a Movie Camera”, das von vielen mit nicht geringer Spannung erwartete Nachfolgewerk Geir Jensens fŸr Touch Records, erfreut zun?chst das Auge: Schlichter h?tte Stardesigner Jon Wozencroft gar nicht an die Sache herangehen k?nnen. Anscheinend ist auch er einer der vielen Zentraleurop?er, die gern Urlaubsdias schie§en… Das Papier-Digipack enthŸllt beim …ffnen zwei Silberscheiben, wobei zun?chst die zweite CD des Doppelalbums interessiert: “Man With a Movie Camera”, Geir Jensens neu erschaffener Soundtrack zu einem fast vergessenen russischen Stummfilm von Dziga Vertov (1929). Der so vertonte Film wurde 1996 beim “Troms International Film Festival” uraufgefŸhrt. Was wir auf der Platte zu h?ren bekommen, sind Soundtrack-Ambience in h?chster Aufl?sung, spŸrbare Hallr?ume ohne Ende und High-Tech-Samples, die einfach klassisch und genial sind. Jensens Ideenreichtum scheint schier endlos, und dennoch gilt die Devise: Ruhe, Ruhe, Ruhe. Danach folgen die “Japanese tracks”, die bislang nur den Japan-Export-CDs vorbehalten waren, und zwar als Bonustracks von “Substrata”, das 1997 regul?r auf Biophon Records – Jensens eigenem Hauslabel – erschienen war. In der 2001er-Edition von Touch Records ist das Album als CD Nummer 1 gereiht. Auf “Substrata” erwartet selbst den Eno-Geeichtesten, den italienischen Dark-Ambient-Erprobtesten (Alio Die, Vidna Obmana, Five Thousands Spirits), wie auch den begeistertsten Lustmord-Fanatiker genau das, von dem er immer schon wu§te, da§ es sowas einfach geben mu§: der totale Chillout. †berhaupt scheint das sogenannte nordische Element in den letzten Jahren einen Siegeszug angetreten zu haben. Die Presse verh?lt sich wie immer bei solchen Trends – ein deutlicher Schwerpunkt Ÿber Berichte zum Thema “n?rdlicher Polarkreis” war zu verzeichnen. Als Rezensent kann man zwar nicht hundertprozentig best?tigten, da§ das melancholische, nordische Element, die Isolation, das “Weit-entfernt-sein” bei den Soundscapes von Biosphere am besten zu Tage tritt. Da denkt man dann doch eher an das Album “North” von Hazard oder – unvergessen – Hilmar …rn Hilmarssons Filmmusik “Children of Nature” (alle auf Touch Records). Doch es sind trotzdem Lebenzeichen aus einer gefrorenen Welt, die man hier zu h?ren bekommt – zeitgem?§ und spacey. Kaum ein anderer kann Klangmaterial spannender ineinander verweben, mal abgesehen von solchen Gr?§en wie Marc van Hoen/Locust, Paul SchŸtze oder Lagovski alias S.E.T.I. selbst. Die Vision ist also nicht Ÿbertrieben: klare, eisige Luft Ÿberall, vorbeitreibende Eisschollen; es dampft, wenn man ausatmet. Am Horizont erkennt man die W?lbung des Planeten. Und wenn die Sonne im Westen untergeht, erstrahlt das Firmament von unten. Das sch?ne an Biospheres Ambience ist, da§ sie immer funktioniert. Egal, wo und wann Mr. Jensen live spielt – er verwandelt jeden noch so hei§en Veranstaltungskessel (von manchen auch Clubbing genannt) in einen Eiskasten! Nordisch gut! Unbedingt antesten! [Ernst Meyer]

Side Line (Belgium):

This new album of Geir Jenssen, master of ambient, consists out of 2 discs. “Substrata” has been originally released in 1997 and now remastered, containing 11 tracks. “Man with a movie camera” consists of 7 tracks of the soundtrack with the same title and 2 tracks, originally released on the limited edition Japanese version of “Substrata”. The first disc has been often considered as one of the absolute chef d’oeuvres in the contemporary ambient scene. The relaxing atmospheres are mainly built up without real rhythmic structures…just to accentuate the wafting sensation. It comes from the imagination and the talent of a world-wide-recognised composer. Listening to biosphere is like travelling through distant cultures and stunning landscapes. With the second disc, G. Jenssen was asked to write a new soundtrack for a Russian silent movie of 1929. I personally prefer this record for being a bit heavier, even if this isn’t the right term for Biosphere. There’s just a bit more dynamics in the structures, which I appreciate a lot. The last cuts (previously released on the Japanese “Substrata”-version) are more into rhythm and groovy arrangements. “The eye of the cyclone” is a great piece of music. This is Biosphere at his best, but not totally representative of what he’s usually doing. A recommended present if you’re into ambient and especially in the grip of Biosphere! (DP 7/8)

Chad Oliveiri [USA]:

Ambient music as a soundtrack to Dziga Vertov’s jumpy 1929 silent film, Man With the Movie Camera, is an interesting proposition, but it doesn’t quite pan out on paper. Vertov’s film is an attempt to distill truth from visual “garbage,” and it relies heavy on editing and montage. The music of Norway’s Geir Jenssen is quite the opposite: methodical, side-long, pastoral. For the Movie Camera soundtrack, the Biosphere MO is adapted a bit to include musique conrète techniques, which help provide aural cues for anyone who attempts to view the film while listening to the music. Included with the soundtrack is a CD re-master of Biosphere’s Substrata, and it’s reason alone to buy the set. Jenssen’s ambience has teeth. It’s not the limp synth-wash wallpaper normally associated with the genre. Substrata is a very clear-headed statement of purpose. Field recordings mesh with billowing string arrangements. Ambient tones retain a brilliant luster and often take on a sinister sheen. Jenssen allows his music to be evocative in ways that many of his contemporaries would consider sinful. And in that sense, this is daring stuff indeed.

All-Music Guide [USA]:

Substrata 2 is not a sequel to Geir Jenssen, aka Biospher}’s critically-acclaimed 1997 CD, but a generously engrossed reissue. Following the success of Cirque, the artist’s first album for the highly-regarded UK label Touch, and coinciding with a string of live dates around England, the company decided to give this classic a complete overhaul. New artwork was produced by Touch artist Jon Wozencroft, the eleven original tracks were remastered, and a second CD was added. Of Substrata itself, little need to be said: the music is clearly into ambient domain, dominated by soft field recordings and lazy guitar lines (think of Loren Mazzacane Connor, Low, or even Godspeed You Black Emperor). The techno element has been relegated to electronic manipulations and discreet events of glitch. A monologue in Swedish appears as a watermark in “Kobresia,” bringing Biosphere’s music surprisingly close to Tibor Szemzö’s. Disc 2 contains over 50 minutes of music. First is the soundtrack to Man with a Movie Camera, a Russian silent film by Dziga Vertov dating back to 1929. Jenssen was asked to create a soundtrack using the director’s instructions for the accompanying piano player. The results are very cinematic — which is not that easy to accomplish. Eery atmospheres, dominated by synthesizers this time, are interwoven with snippets of speech. In this project the music paradoxically moves into both more conventional techno domains, with the return of pulse, even constructed linear beats in “City Wakes Up” and “Ballerina,”} and electroacoustics verging on >musique concrète (“Manicure”). “Freeze-Frames,” with its short looped samples acting like a gallery of half-remembered images, provides the highlight. This second disc also contains two bonus tracks from the Substrata sessions, previously available only on the Japanese edition. “The Eye of the Cyclone” and “Endurium” are the most beat-driven music of the whole set, clearly club-oriented (especially in the first case). One easily understands why they were left off the original album.

Substrata 2 is not a sequel to Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere’s critically acclaimed 1997 CD, but a generously engrossed reissue. Following the success of Cirque, the artist’s first album for the highly regarded U.K. label Touch, and coinciding with a string of live dates around England, the company decided to give this classic a complete overhaul. New artwork was produced by Touch artist Jon Wozencroft, the 11 original tracks were remastered, and a second CD was added. Of Substrata itself, little need to be said: The music is clearly into ambient domain, dominated by soft field recordings and lazy guitar lines (think of Loren Mazzacane Connors, Low, or even Godspeed You Black Emperor!). The techno element has been relegated to electronic manipulations and discreet events of glitch. A monologue in Swedish appears as a watermark in “Kobresia,” bringing Biosphere’s music surprisingly close to Tibor Szemz?’s. Disc two contains over 50 minutes of music. First is the soundtrack to Man With a Movie Camera, a Russian silent film by Dziga Vertov dating back to 1929. Jenssen was asked to create a soundtrack using the director’s instructions for the accompanying piano player. The results are very cinematic Ñ which is not that easy to accomplish. Eerie atmospheres, dominated by synthesizers this time, are interwoven with snippets of speech. In this project the music paradoxically moves into both more conventional techno domains, with the return of pulse, even constructed linear beats in “City Wakes Up” and “Ballerina,” and electro-acoustics verging on musique concr?te (“Manicure”). “Freeze-Frames,” with its short looped samples acting like a gallery of half-remembered images, provides the highlight. This second disc also contains two bonus tracks from the Substrata sessions, previously available only on the Japanese edition. “The Eye of the Cyclone” and “Endurium” are the most beat-driven music of the whole set, clearly club-oriented (especially in the first case). One easily understands why they were left off the original album. [Francois Couture]

Exposé Magazine:

The original 1997 release of Substrata is a classic of the ambient genre, literally redefining it in some respects. It is part ambient music, part talking and environmental noise, all with Geir Jenssen’s typical Norwegian touches. You can practically hear the ice floes. His music seems to personify cold, and yet there is organic beauty that lends a sense of warmth as well. Substrata 2 is a remastered version of the original disc, plus an entirely new second disc for most listeners, with the exception of some bonus tracks that appeared on the Japanese version of the first Substrata release. The rest is a soundtrack specifically composed by Jenssen to accompany a Russian silent film from 1929 entitled Man With A Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov. The resulting soundworld is very much an extension of Substrata. In fact, some of the same spoken word clips appear on both discs. This lends a certain familiarity to the work. Part of the appeal for me of the original was that it was a totally new sound, unlike anything I’d heard before. This time, it’s more like curling up on the couch with a familiar friend to chat by the fire. Bundle up and enjoy. Biosphere’s unique brand of icy ambience is more sound than music, but the cool drones and hypnotic beats meld perfectly with the many abstract sound samples, as on his earlier works. [Phil Derby]

The Milk Factory (Norway):

Substrata, released in 1997, is one of the finest purely ambient record ever released. From his remote part of the world, Geir Jenssen, better known as Biosphere, has slowly become an artist in the true meaning of the word, as his work for art galleries or moviemakers took him to explore sound in a different way. Substrata was the result of this new direction, and Touch now releases a remastered version of this masterpiece, together with the soundtrack for Man With A Movie Camera, commissioned by the Tromso International Film Festival that same year. Substrata is inhabited by the vast spaces spreading across the artic region, endless nights and midnight sun, sub-zero temperatures and Northern lights. Never a record had been so intimate with nature, so close to the sounds, colours and smells of its environment. Jenssen emphasises the intensity of these elements by bringing them into his beat-less compositions, allowing them to take control of this new organic world. From time to time, more urban sounds come into the spectrum, when voice samples telling abstract stories, or a melancholic guitar offering support to an unlikely song emerge, but always, these components get swallowed in by the magma-like ambiences. The listener becomes a helpless witness of the beauty and cruelty of life. Jenssen’s unusual vision, similar to Eno’s,Ê In the year Substrata was released, Geir Jenssen was commissioned by the Tromso International Film Festival to write a new soundtrack for 1929 Man With A Movie Camera film, by Russian director Dziga Vertow. Jenssen worked with fellow Norwegian Per Martinsen, aka Mental Overdrive, from Vertow’s instructions for musical accompaniment. Each musician worked on every other part. There are numerous similarities between Substrata and Jenssen’s compositions for this soundtrack. Elaborating from common samples, he creates equally intense sound structures. However, Man With A Movie Camera is not as arid as Substrata. Field recordings collide with orchestras, accordions, beat patterns and samples from old French movies to create a multicoloured patchwork of incredible diversity.Ê The second CD composing this release also includes two tracks originally only available on the Japanese version of Substrata. If The Eye Of The Cyclone is an upbeat affair, evoking more Jenssen’s composition on Microgravity or Patashnik, Endurium reaffirms that Biosphere is now turned towards cinemascope horizons and natural ambiences. As Geir Jenssen continues to work on various projects, all more or less related to music, Substrata 2 is a healthy definition of the work he has produced over the last five years. This second Biosphere release for Touch is an essential record. [5 stars]