Wireless - Live at the Arnolfini, Bristol
Birds Fly by Flapping Their Wings
When I Leave
Warmed by the Drift
The Things I Tell You
Moistened and Dried
Listeners are in for an hour-long arctic meditation session as Biosphere showcases his time with Touch, well assisted by sound recordist Chris Watson.
Wireless was recorded on 27 October 2007 as part of Touch25 Live, a series of events organised by the UK indie label Touch to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The concert is a journey through Biosphere aka Geir Jenssen's Touch back-catalogue and albums such as Cirque, Substrata 2, Shenzhou and Dropsonde.
Jenssen started out as one part of the Norwegian synth-pop group Bel Canto in the mid 80s, and has since worked on film scores and sound installations in addition to releasing albums. In his over two-decade long career, Wireless is his first live release. Recorded at the Arnolfini art centre in Bristol, it's a session of arctic soundscapes and ethereal moods, the sounds that have earned Biosphere his prominent position on the ambient scene.
The hour-long set is well composed. Songs merge into each other, and quiet blocks of floaty synths are mixed with folk elements and field recordings that add authenticity and humanity to the otherwise icy sonic expression. Melodies are timid and repetitive. Build-ups aren't rushed, if present at all. Jenssen allows his listeners to thoroughly explore each musical fragment before moving on, and only when a 90s electronica beat disrupts the floaty sounds midways is Wireless forced into a somewhat dated pattern. The compositions are sparse, and the clean and stripped soundscapes make the most minor movements momentous. Trombonist Anders Karlskås is brought in to ensure that the performance gets a deep and majestic closure.
The songs on Wireless aren't remarkably different from their respective album recordings, and it would have been nice to hear them further redressed. But there are other elements that make the album interesting.
Wireless is recorded by Chris Watson, one-time member of the experimental electronica act Cabaret Voltaire and sound art combo the Hafler Trio, now a well-established musician and sound recordist. He's worked on an array of documentaries and TV programmes, and released a number of albums based around his field recordings. In a similar manner, Jenssen recorded his way up Tibet's Cho Oyo mountain in 2001, the result being 2006's sound dairy Cho Oyu 8201m. On Wireless, Watson and Jenssen's shared fondness for approaching sounds through nature are audible in the live performance's fragile, crisp and distinctive wrapping.
Wireless is not for restless souls, or those on the hunt for musical challenges. Biosphere offers a mood, a meditative universe where the repetitiveness that saturates the songs forces listeners to slow down. And if anything, that's the real strength of Wireless – it's a welcome counterbalance to the many other areas in life that forces you to speed up.
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