BIOSPHERE: Wireless – Live at The Arnolfini, Bristol (Touch)


Posted on Jun 1st 2009 11:16 pm

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Biosphere: Wireless - Live At The Arnolfini, Bristol

Wireless – Live At The Arnolfini, Bristol
Touch 2009
11 Tracks. 62mins08secs

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In 2007, the excellent Touch imprint celebrated twenty five years at the forefront of experimental music with a series of events across the UK and beyond involving some of the label’s most prominent artists. Recorded at the Arnolfini art centre in Bristol, as part of Touch25 Live, Biosphere’s Wireless, his first live album, documents Geir Jenssen’s work since he joined the Touch stable at the turn of the millennium. The set was arranged into an hour long track made up of compositions lifted from Jenssen’s albums for the label together with a handful of additional pieces.

Using material spanning eight years, from the seminal Substrata, originally released in 1997 on Origo Sound and All Saints and later re-issued on Touch, to Jenssen’s most recent output, Dropsonde (2005), all woven into one long piece, Wireless is a rich and cinematic soundtrack which develops into many directions, from the classical undertones of Shenzou to the field recordings of Pneuma or Moistened And Dried, the jazz echoes of Birds Fly By Flapping Their Wings or Warmed By The Drift or the vast ambient soundscapes of When I Leave or The Things I Tell You, yet feels exceptionally consistent and homogenous all the way through.

Opening proceedings is Pneuma, a minimal piece, based on what sounds like a respirator of some description but is in fact trombone sounds, played by Anders Karlskas, sounding not dissimilar to what Oren Marshall does with a tuba. This breathing apparatus effect is surprisingly reminiscent of some aspects of the sound document of Jenssen’s ascension of mount Cho Oyu, in Tibet, that he published on Touch’s sister label Ash International in 2006. As the warm tones of Shenzou slowly rises in the background, and finally takes over, the set reaches its natural ground and then drifts from one graceful moment to the next, Jenssen never letting the interest drop for one moment as he carefully regulates the flow of sounds and ambiences.

While each one of his albums has a very definite identity, the careful juxtaposition of tracks from different eras here actually works in the same way as Jenssen’s regular records, building a beautiful narrative from sounds sourced, for the most part, from nature, and arranged into evocative formations, some thriving on beat-less structures, others invigorated with subtle drum motifs. Here, like on his studio recordings, Jenssen voluntarily blurs the boundaries of each piece, leaving them to leak into the next, creating a seemingly flawless stream of music and sound.

Geir Jenssen is a truly accomplished performer who has, over the years, relentlessly worked at underlying the deep organic roots of his music, either through the widespread use of sounds sourced in nature, or through numerous installations across the world. This album demonstrates how his enveloping soundscapes become even more effective when performed live. Wireless is a superb document, not only of Geir Jenssen’s work, but also of the ethos that has made Touch one of the most singular and respected labels around.


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