Geir Jenssen (born 30 May 1962) is a Norwegian electronic musician who records as Biosphere. A resident of Tromsø within the Arctic Circle, Jenssen is well known for ambient and ambient house pieces, often inspired by Arctic or mountain settings, and his use of loops and peculiar samples from science fiction and natural sources. His 1997 album Substrata was voted by the users of the Hyperreal website in 2001 as the best all-time classic ambient album. He has also composed several film scores.
Geir Jenssen performing in 2011
|Birth name||Geir Jenssen|
|Also known as||Bleep, Cosmic Explorer, E-Man|
|Born||30 May 1962|
|Genres||Ambient, ambient house, drone, ambient techno, electronic, field recording|
|Instruments||Electronic keyboard, synthesizer|
|Labels||Beatservice Records, Touch, Biophon Records, Apollo, Origo Sound, SSR Records, Rune Grammofon, Smalltown Supersound|
|Associated acts||Higher Intelligence Agency|
Prior to Biosphere (1962–1991)
Jenssen was born on 30 May 1962 in Tromsø, a city within the Arctic Circle in the northernmost portion of Norway. He was inspired by the music of artists such as New Order, Depeche Mode, Wire, and Brian Eno, which he described as "like discovering a new universe—a universe which I wanted to be a part of". In 1983, he bought his first synthesizer and composed his first piece of music, taking influence from his archaeological studies, later stating "Studying the Ice Age and Stone Age has definitely influenced my music." In 1984 Jenssen issued his first album, Likvider, released on cassette only and credited to E-man.
In 1985, Jenssen was part of the newly created Norwegian moody synth trio Bel Canto with Nils Johansen and singer Anneli Drecker. The band signed with Belgian label Crammed Discs and to Nettwerk in North America, and relocated to Brussels. Jenssen, however, soon returned to Tromsø, collaborating with the other band members by post, and continuing with his solo work. Bel Canto released two albums while Jenssen was a member, White-Out Conditions and Birds of Passage. In 1990, he left the band in order to pursue a different music style altogether, and began using a sampler.
Throughout the late 1980s, Jenssen used the moniker Bleep, under which he produced various 12" records, now releasing records via the Crammed Discs subsidiary SSR. His early influences were from acid house and New Beat music. Released in 1990, The North Pole by Submarine was the only album recorded as Bleep. Further singles followed in 1990 and 1991 before Jenssen abandoned the Bleep moniker and again changed musical direction.
As Biosphere (1991–present)
Following the release of The North Pole by Submarine, Jenssen began releasing his music as Biosphere on obscure Norwegian compilation albums. His first Biosphere releases were the 12-inch single "The Fairy Tale" and the album Microgravity, both of which were rejected by SSR as unmarketable. Microgravity was released in 1991 on the Norwegian label Origo Sound, and saw wider release via the R&S Records subsidiary Apollo in 1992, to much critical acclaim. In 1992, Jenssen contributed "I'll Strangle You" to Hector Zazou's Sahara Blue project.
In 1994, the second Biosphere album, Patashnik was released, through which 'Jenssen continued to explore his ambient-house stylings to an even greater extent. Patashnik contained the first hints of the reduction in beat-driven song structure that would mark later Biosphere releases. Unlike the first album, Patashnik was quickly picked up by a comparatively large international audience, which brought Biosphere greater recognition. Jenssen also recorded as Cosmic Explorer, scoring a hit in Belgium with the EP The Hubble.
In 1995, Levi Strauss & Co. was searching for a new angle to add to their television advertisement campaign (which up to that point had never featured electronic music), and they decided to use the uptempo track "Novelty Waves" from Patashnik. Shortly thereafter, "Novelty Waves" was released as a single (featuring remixes by various other artists), and managed to chart in several countries, reaching #51 in the United Kingdom. Although Jenssen never regretted his approval for use of the track, he also never sought this kind of fame and subsequently turned down various requests by his record company and peers to collaborate with well-known techno and drum 'n bass artists or to create a follow-up album in the same style. During that same year, Biosphere contributed the song "The Seal and the Hydrophone" exclusively to Apollo 2 – The Divine Compilation released by Apollo Records.
‘’Substrata’’ (1997) is a purely atmospheric ambient Biosphere album, released on All Saints Records. Substrata, which marked Jenssen's embarkation towards an intensely minimal style, is not only often considered to be Jenssen's best work to date, but is also seen as one of the all-time classic ambient albums. Substrata contains samples from the American TV show Twin Peaks.
In 2000, Jenssen released Cirque on his new home Touch, an ambient album driven by muffled beats, samples, and minimal atmospherics. Though Cirque briefly revisited territory covered by earlier Biosphere releases, the rhythm section throughout the album remains an element of the background, unlike Jenssen's first two Biosphere releases, wherein the drums occupied a dominating proportion of the foreground.
In 2002, he released Shenzhou, the fifth full-length album under the name Biosphere. This album was a more abstract work, comparable to Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. The material on the album draws from elongated, pitch-shifted loops taken from Debussy's La Mer (The Sea), and Jeux.
Released in 2004, Autour de la Lune stands as the most minimal and austere Biosphere album to date. The drones employed on this album are comparable to Coil's 1998 album Time Machines in their timbre and slow rate of change. The bulk of this work was originally commissioned and broadcast in September 2003 by Radio France Culture for a musical evocation of Jules Verne.
In 2006, Jenssen released Dropsonde, a half beatless, half rhythmic album composed of jazz rhythms evocative of Miles Davis' 1970s jazz fusion works. A partial vinyl sampler was released a few months earlier in 2005.
In 2009, Biosphere issued Wireless: Live at the Arnolfini, Bristol, his first live album, containing new tracks such as "Pneuma" and "Pneuma II".
Jenssen has scored a number of films, including Eternal Stars (1993) and Insomnia (1997). He collaborated with German ambient composer Pete Namlook on Fires of Ork, and has also worked with Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart and with Bobby Bird of Higher Intelligence Agency. In 2010, two soundtracks were announced on Biosphere's website, for German film "Im Schatten" and Norwegian "NOKAS".
In 2016, Jenssen released Departed Glories as Biosphere. The thematic focus of the album draws inspiration from the defence of Krakow from Nazi invasion during the Second World War. Jenssen conceived of the album while living in the city.
Biosphere regularly performs live during electronic music festivals and in clubs throughout Europe and various other locales around the world. Live performances usually consist of Jenssen performing improvisations or variations on newer tracks on a laptop while video art is projected behind him; for example, full-screen video art was projected in his Picturehouse cinema tour in April 2006. Although these performances are rarely tied specifically to a recent album release, the uptempo material from the Bleep and Microgravity/Patashnik era is occasionally featured in Biosphere performances.
In May 2004, Biosphere's first United States performance took place in Detroit.
In 2008 Jenssen announced a year-long break from touring due to his reported hatred of "airports, security checks, unhealthy food, air conditioning, hotels, etc.". However he resumed concert activity in 2009 and 2011.
Jenssen is also an active climber and mountaineer. This hobby is an inspiration on his work, as well as a source of natural sound samples. His highest feat was in 2001, climbing the Cho Oyu (Himalaya, 8201 meters) without oxygen; in 2006, he thus released Cho Oyu 8201m – Field Recordings from Tibet (as Geir Jenssen).
Albums as E-Man
- E-Man (1984)
Albums as Bleep
- The North Pole by Submarine (1990)
Albums as Biosphere
- Microgravity (1991)
- Patashnik (1994)
- Substrata (1997)
- Cirque (2000)
- Substrata² (2-CD reissue of Substrata with Man with a Movie Camera, 2001) (Touch)
- Shenzhou (2002) (Touch)
- Autour de la Lune (2004) (Touch)
- Dropsonde (2006) (Touch)
- Wireless: Live at the Arnolfini, Bristol (2009) (Touch)
- N-Plants (2011) (Touch)
- L'incoronazione di Poppea (2012)
- Patashnik 2 (tracks recorded between 1992 and 1994) (2014)
- Das Subharchord EP (2014)
- Departed Glories (2016)
- Black Mesa EP (2017)
- The Petrified Forest (2017)
- The Hilvarenbeek Recordings (2018)
- The Senja Recordings (2019)
Soundtracks and sounds
- Eternal Stars (1993 film soundtrack)
- Man with a Movie Camera (1996 festival soundtrack, 2001 release in Substrata²)
- Insomnia (1997 soundtrack for the original Norwegian version of Insomnia)
- Cho Oyu 8201m – Field Recordings from Tibet (as Geir Jenssen, 2006) (Ash International)
- Nokas (2010 film soundtrack, as Geir Jenssen)
- Kill by Inches (soundtrack to the 1999 movie Kill by Inches, released 2012)
- Stromboli - field recording from the Stromboli crater edge - 2013 12" single released on Touch
- Sound Installations (2000-2009) (2015)
Usually as "Geir Jenssen" instead of "Biosphere":
- White-Out Conditions (1987, in Bel Canto)
- Birds of Passage (1989, in Bel Canto)
- Fires of Ork (1993, with Pete Namlook)
- Polar Sequences (1996, live, with Higher Intelligence Agency)
- Nordheim Transformed (1998, with Deathprod, remixing Arne Nordheim)
- Biosystems: The Biosphere Remixes (1999, collection of 8 other bands)
- Birmingham Frequencies (2000, live, with Higher Intelligence Agency)
- Fires of Ork II (2000, with Pete Namlook)
- "Stator" (2015, with Deathprod) (Touch)
- Thompson, Dave (2000) Alternative Rock, Miller Freeman, ISBN 0-87930-607-6, p.197-198
- See "Classic Ambient Recordings: The 2001 Survey" at Hyperreal.org
- Biosphere : Shenzhou Archived February 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Junkmedia. Retrieved on 2013-02-18.
- "TO:84 - Biosphere "N-Plants" |". touchmusic.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
- "Biosphere comes in from the cold: The ambient iceman on his new album Departed Glories". factmag.com. 17 September 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
- Unsound Festival 2009 website: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-06-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "PRESENCES electronique 2011 - INA - GRM". Retrieved 19 September 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Biosphere.|
- Biosphere.no – The official Biosphere website, including: News – Biography – Discography – MP3s
- "De la Terre à la Lune" (July 2003) Good biographical retrospective of Biosphere (at MIC Norway)
- "Biosphere: Ground Level" (July 2004) Comprehensive interview with Geir Jenssen (at The Milk Factory)
- Biosphere discography (including lone tracks) at Beatservice Records
- Biosphere discography (with critics comments) at AMG
- Biosphere discography (with users comments) at Discogs
- Lyrics, quotes, samples
- An enhanced version of the "Biosphere Samples list v1.0 by Igor Boronenkov" (Usenet archive)
- Sources of voice samples in music from Biosphere at S107
- Samples and quotes in FAX albums – including Fires of Ork
Lindstrøm and Christabelle
| Recipient of the Elektronika/Dance Spellemannprisen