BIOSPHERE-THE HILVARENBEEK RECORDINGS.
Biosphere-The Hilvarenbeek Recordings.
Label: Biophon Records.
Back in 2013, Geir Jenssen a.k.a. Biosphere, was invited by the organisers of the Incubate Festival in Tilburg to spend a week doing field recordings at the organic farm in Boerderij ‘t Schop in Hilvarenbeek. This was an invitation Biosphere accepted and made the journey to Hilvarenbeek, in Holland.
Once the field recordings were complete, the organisers of the Incubate Festival explained to Biosphere that they planned to release Hilvarenbeek as a limited edition single-sided vinyl EP, with the 100 copies being distributed to the media, and the remainder to his family. Sadly, the organisers of the Incubate Festival never managed to release Biosphere’s single which was a huge disappointment for Biosphere. All his hard work had been for nothing. However, that wasn’t the end of the story.
In 2016, it’s alleged that the Dutch label New York Haunted released Hilvarenbeek without Biosphere’s permission. He was stunned, as the had neither sought his permission, nor consulted him about things like the artwork and the quality of vinyl used. This just added to the earlier disappointment.
Later in 2016, Biophon Records, which is Biosphere’s own label, released Hilvarenbeek as a digital release which marked the official release of tracks like ‘t Schop, Bats, Audax and Strigiformes. This righted a wrong, and also allowed Biosphere’s fans to hear some the recordings he had made after returning from Hilvarenbeek. However, there was still one more chapter to the Hilvarenbeek story that began three years earlier.
Now two years later, and Biosphere is back with his new album The Hilvarenbeek Recordings, which was released on Biophon Records and features eight tracks which complete Hilvarenbeek the story. However, it’s just the latest chapter in the story of one of the leading lights of Nordic music.
In The Beginning.
Geir Jenssen was born on the ‘30h’ of May 1962, in Tromsø, a city within the Arctic Circle in the most northerly part of Norway. Growing up, Geir Jenssen discovered electronic music, including Brian Eno, New Order and Depeche Mode who would later inspire him.
Discovering electronic music was a life-changing experience, and opened up new world for Geir Jenssen. Initially, Geir Jenssen was content to discover the different types of electronic music, and embarked upon a voyage of musical discovery. Eventually Geir Jenssen realised that he wanted to go from listening to, to making electronic music.
In 1983, Geir Jenssen purchased his first synth, and before long, had composed his first piece of music. It was influenced by his archaeological studies, and specifically his studies of the Ice Age and Stone Age. This would continue to influence Geir Jenssen’s music throughout his career.
Just a year after buying his first synth, Geir Jenssen was preparing to release his debut album. By then, he had dawned the E-man moniker and was preparing to release his album Likvider on cassette. Little did Geir Jenssen realise that this was the start of a recording career that would span thirty-five years.
By 1985, Geir Jenssen was a member of Norwegian synth trio Bel Canto, which featured Anneli Drecker and Nils Johansen. Bel Canto was signed by the Belgian label Crammed Discs, the group relocated to Brussels. However, before long, Geir Jenssen returned home, where he divided his time between his solo career and his work with Bel Canto.
With the members of Bel Canto based in two different locations, this could’ve spelt disaster for the band. It wasn’t. Instead, this was the start of a long distance collaboration between Geir Jenssen and the rest of Bel Canto. In those pre-internet days, the collaboration took place via post, with Geir Jenssen and the rest of Bel Canto exchanging ideas for songs via letter.
This long-distance collaboration proved fruitful, and in 1987 Bel Canto released their debut album White-Out Conditions. It was followed in 1989 by Birds of Passage which is regarded by many as Bel Canto’s finest album. However, a year later in 1990 Geir Jenssen left Bel Canto and changed direction musically, using a sampler for the first time.
During the late-eighties, Geir Jenssen had adopted the alias Bleep, when he released several 12” singles of ambient techno. However, it wasn’t until 1990 that Bleep released his debut album The North Pole by Submarine. It was the only album that Bleep released.
By then, Geir Jenssen had decided to change direction, and move towards ambient music. To do this, Geir Jenssen adopted a new moniker, Biosphere and initially, some of his early compositions were released by compilations released by Norwegian labels.
It wasn’t until 1991 that Biosphere’s debut album Microgravity was released by Origo Sound. Microgravity was an album of ambient house and proved popular within clubs. This was ironic, as SSR an imprint of Nettwerk who had previously released Geir Jenssen’s music, had rejected Microgravity calling it “unmarketable.” However, Geir Jenssen had the last laugh as his career blossomed.
In 1993, Biosphere returned with the first soundtrack of his career, Eternal Stars. This was the first of several soundtracks that Biosphere would compose over the next three decades.
Four years after the release of Microgravity, Biosphere returned with his sophomore album Patashnik in 1994. It found Biosphere continue to explore the ambient house sound that featured on Microgravity. One of the highlights of Patashnik was the uptempo track Novelty Waves which was spotted by marketing executives at Levi Strauss & Co. in 1995. They used Novelty Waves as part of their marketing campaign, which introduced Biosphere’s music to a new audience. This resulted in Novelty Waves being released as a single and giving Biosphere a hit single in several countries. For Biosphere this was the break that he had been waiting for.
When Biosphere returned in 1997 with Substrata, which was released on All Saints Records, it showcased a very different sound. Substrata was Biosphere’s first ever ambient album, and nowadays is regarded as a genre classic. It’s a cinematic and sometimes chilling album that paints pictures of an Arctic landscape that is punctuated by mountains and glaciers. Biosphere adds the sound of running water and the howling winds as he portrays life in the Arctic Circle during the winter months on Substrata. It marked the coming of age of Biosphere as a musician.
Later in 1997, the Norwegian film Insomnia was released, and came complete with an ambient soundtrack by Biosphere. This was his second venture into the world of soundtracks and showcased his new ambient sound. However, although the much of the music was ambient, sometimes, a darkness descended which complemented the film. Biosphere’s soundtrack to Insomnia found favour amongst critics.
Three years passed before Biosphere returned with his fourth studio album Cirque, in 2000. It veered between the ambient sound on Substrata, and the ambient house that featured on Microgravity and Patashnik. Cirque was released to critical acclaim and was regarded as a fitting followup to Substrata.
In 2001, Biosphere released his ambient soundtrack to Dziga Vertov’s 1929 film Man With A Movie Camera. It had been commissioned by the Tromsø International Film Festival in 1996, and recorded later that year. However, five years passed before Biosphere’s ambient soundtrack to Man With A Movie Camera was released. By then, Biosphere’s popularity was at all-time high and he had matured as a musician.
It was as if everything was leading up to Biosphere’s ambient concept album Shenzhou. When Shenzhou was released on the ‘3rd’ of June 2002, it was hailed as Biosphere’s Magnus Opus, and an album that managed to surpass the quality of Substrata. Shenzhou was also something of a stylistic departure for Biosphere and nowadays is considered one of his classic albums.
Buoyed by the success of Shenzhou, Biosphere returned in May 2004 with Autour de la Lune which was another stylistic departure. Unlike previous albums, Biosphere eschewed percussion on Autour de la Lune which featured minimalist soundscapes that consisted of white noise and the sounds of the Mir space station. The result was an innovative fusion of ambient and drone music from musical pioneer Biosphere.
Nearly two years later, he returned with the jazz-tinged, ambient album Dropsonde which was released in January 2008. Biosphere continued on his mission to reinvent his music on Dropsonde.
In 2009, Biosphere released Wireless: Live At The Arnolfini, Bristol, which was his first live album. It was recorded on the ’27th’ of October 2007, and featured tracks from Biosphere’s previous albums. Biosphere’s first live album was his latest success and his career continued to from strength-to-strength.
When Biosphere returned in June 2011, it was with N-Plants, which was an ambitious album that was inspired by the Japanese post-war economic miracle. When researching the album, Biosphere found an old photo of the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant which lead to further research. This resulted in Biosphere naming each of the tracks after a Japanese nuclear power plant. The result was one of the most thought-provoking and best ambient albums Biosphere had released.
Biosphere was by 2012 one of the leading lights of the Nordic music scene, and also one the pioneers of ambient music. However, when L’Incoronazione Di Poppea was released in 2012, it was fusion of ambient and modern classical music. This was just the latest example of Biosphere’s determination never to make the same album twice. He wasn’t the an artist who would rest on his laurels.
After the success of his first live album, Biosphere returned in 2013 with the ambient album Live At Vega, Copenhagen 9.11.1996. This time, it was a digital release and featured a selection of tracks from Biosphere’s burgeoning back-catalogue.
It was a similar case with the next two digital releases that Biosphere released in 2014 and 2015. Patashnik 2 which was released in 2014, featured tracks recorded between 1992 and 1994. This was followed by Sound Installations 2000-2009, which was released in 2015, and looked back at Biosphere’s career between 2000 and 2009.
In 2016, Biosphere released his first studio album in four years, Departed Glories. Although it featured his usual ambient sound, there was also an experimental sound to this latest critically acclaimed album from Biosphere. This came fifteen years after Geir Jenssen first dawned the Biosphere moniker.
Biosphere’s next release was the mini album The Petrified Forest, which was released in 2017. The Petrified Forest featured six carefully crafted soundscapes which were written and produced by Biosphere. He had come a long way since he bought his first bought his synth and started making music.
The Hilvarenbeek Recordings.
Proof of that is The Hilvarenbeek Recordings which was recently released by Biophon Records and brings a sense of closure to Biosphere. The Hilvarenbeek Recordings’ roots can be traced to 2013 when Biosphere, was invited by the organisers of the Incubate Festival in Tilburg to spend a week doing field recordings at the organic farm in Boerderij ‘t Schop in Hilvarenbeek. This was an invitation that Biosphere was happy to accept, and later, he made the journey to Hilvarenbeek.
Having completed the field recordings, the organisers of the Incubate Festival explained how they planned to release Hilvarenbeek as a limited edition single-sided vinyl EP by Biosphere. However, only 100 copies would be pressed and they would be distributed to the media, and the remainder to Biosphere’s family. Sadly, the organisers of the Incubate Festival never managed to release the single which was a disappointment for Biosphere.
Things went from bad to worse when the Dutch label New York Haunted released Hilvarenbeek without Biosphere’s permission. He was stunned, as the had neither sought his permission, nor consulted him about things like the artwork and the quality of vinyl used. This just added to the earlier disappointment.
Later in 2016, Biophon Records, which is Biosphere’s own label, released Hilvarenbeek as a digital release which marked the official release of tracks like ‘t Schop, Bats, Audax and Strigiformes. This righted a wrong, and also allowed Biosphere’s fans to hear some the recordings he had made after returning from Hilvarenbeek.
Two years later, and Biosphere brings closure to the Hilvarenbeek project by releasing The Hilvarenbeek Recordings on his own label Biophon Records. It features three of the four tracks that featured on Hilvarenbeek, ‘t Schop, Audax and Strigiformes. They’re joined by Pipistrellus, Rovertse Heide, De Doornboom and Icoon on The Hilvarenbeek Recordings which marks the welcome return of Biosphere.
As soon as t’Schop opens The Hilvarenbeek Recordings an array of subtle sounds assail the listener and transport them back to their childhood. Especially those who grew up in the countryside. They’ll relate to what sounds like empty fields on a long, hot summer day. Meanwhile, sounds flit in and out including a distant train and plane as water meanders and later, the sound a farmer bringing his cattle in as ethereal vocals enter. Suddenly, the sound of cow interjects before angels sing adding their ethereal voices to this carefully crafted soundscape. where Biosphere fuses ambient, avant-garde and modern classical.
Sounds scamper across the minimalist arrangement to Pipistrellus. It features a bucolic sound as Biosphere eavesdrops on an average day in the countryside. This eavesdropping continues on the minimalist sounding Audax where ethereal synths are combined with field recordings. Suddenly, the sound of hammering can be heard before and later, which is later replaced by a tractor Biosphere continues his realistic portrayal of country life
A minimalist backdrop portrays the countryside at night, before an owl interjects, and enters into a conversation with another night-owl. Latterly, washes of lush synths take centre-stage before giving way to the bucolic sounding Rovertse Heide which becomes ethereal, mesmeric and even liturgical. It’s another beautiful, cinematic track that showcases Biosphere’s skills as a recording and producer.
The sound of chatter gives way to hammering and the hypnotic sound of a machine working can be heard on De Doornboom, and has a musical quality of its own. It’s just the latest chapter of life in the country which continues on Hilsondis. This is akin to a mesmeric and minimalist spiritual chant that reverberates as if ebbs and flows revealing its otherworldly beauty. It gives way to the Icoon which isn’t just ethereal and spiritual, but has a beauty that is omnipresent. Biosphere has kept the best until last on The Hilvarenbeek Recordings.
The recent release of The Hilvarenbeek Recordings allows this musical innovator will be able to enjoy closure the ill-fated Hilvarenbeek single which must have been hugely frustrating time for Biosphere. When the Hilvarenbeek single wasn’t released it looked as if all Biosphere’s work had been for nothing. However, that was far from the case and five years after Biosphere journeyed to Hilvarenbeek to record filed recordings, he brings this chapter of his life to a close with yet another critically acclaimed album that his legion of fans will enjoy and embrace.
For anyone whose yet to discover Biosphere’s music, The Hilvarenbeek Recordings is the perfect starting place as he combines ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental and modern classical music to create what’s one of the finest albums of his long and illustrious career. The Hilvarenbeek Recordings finds Biosphere eavesdropping on life in the countryside on this carefully crafted cinematic album that is rich in imagery.
Biosphere-The Hilvarenbeek Recordings.