One of the most influential ambient musicians
Geir Jenssen is synonymous with the cold. It goes through his 30-year discography like frigid ice winding through a valley, from the solidifying symbolism that denoted his initial record covers and track names (and prompted to the 'Cold surrounding' label he's been stuck with since the 1990s) to the story topics of his work and his all around archived love of mountaineering. It’s a pervasive aesthetic yet one he's prominently moved far from over the previous decade. Departed Glories, his new record on Smalltown Supersound, marks the pinnacle of this move.
Jenssen was born in 1962 in Tromsø, a little Norwegian city situated far north, inside the Arctic Circle. In spite of occasional unlucky deficiencies – most as of late a short migration to Krakow – he's constantly stayed in the territory, and as of now lives on the pleasant island of Senja, advancing our sentimental picture of the separated electronic auteur living in a frozen world.
That persona first emerged in 1986 with the release of White-Out Conditions by Bel Canto, the cold, 4AD-obliged dream-pop band with which Jenssen composed two albums. 4AD-obliged dream-pop band with which Jenssen composed two collections. A couple of years after the fact he recorded a LP of acid techno as Bleep, 1989's The North Pole by Submarine, before settling on his present alias investigate more abstract, monochromatic fields.
As Biosphere, Jenssen has released a little pile of ambient, minimalist techno and drone records over the past 25 years. He's generally viewed as a pioneer of the previous – 1997's Substrata is routinely trundled out as an ambient touchstone – but he's far risen above the affiliation, investigating field recording, drone and sound art over a rich assemblage of work, to a great extent on Touch and his own Biophon label, and drawing on a variety of motivations and sound sources. He's diverted the Alaskan journey of self-denying saint Chris McCandleless (2000's Cirque), twisted and cleaved Debussy's La Mer (2002's Shenzou), composed around Jules Verne's interstellar books (2004's La Autour de la Lune), grasped jazz rhythms (2005's Dropsonde) and reviewed the weakness of Japanese atomic stations (2011's N-Plants).
He has also released a set of field recordings from a Himalayan mountaineering trip under his own name (Cho Oyu 8201m – Field Recordings From Tibet) and took a shot at coordinated efforts, establishments and film soundtracks, including the score of the first Norwegian rendition of Insomnia. Inside the wide pantheon of ambient and drone – classifications inclined to limit surfaces and simple excellence –Jenssen’s records stand apart because of their narrative ballast.
Indeed, even in a discography so differed, Departed Glories speaks to a change of approach. Imagined while living in Krakow, the new album deserts the aesthetics of snow, science and dead industry, and finds a narrative focus in the Polish city's resistance against Nazi occupation amid the second world war and nearby 'mental injuries' drawn from before periods ever. While human voices can be heard over his past records – not minimum on Substrata's Twin Peaks tests – Departed Glories is made exclusively from vocals, with Jenssen controlling old people recordings into eldritch, encompassing soundscapes.
The record’s cover image is an apt signifier of the music inside, assumed control over a century prior, Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky's initial shading photo of a Russian worker lady is both striking and startling. It's the atmosphere of that photograph– the sentiment a far off apparition dragged into distinctive life – that he inspires with Departed Glories.
In opposition to his frigid notoriety, Jenssen was warm and connecting with when he addressed me from his home on Senja, apologizing occasionally for his not-exceptionally broken English as he discussed the histories of Krakow's spooky woods, the viable confinements of field recording, ungainly mountain salvages and the calm interest of residential area living.
"Imagine if you had a field recorder where you could record back in time, actually record something from the 1930s or ‘40s? I wanted to have that kind of sound, to have it kind of lo-fi. The sound is hi-fi, but I was also thinking about those kinds of old recordings. "
- Geir Jensen about Departed Glories