Geir Jenssen wrote this album during the first half of February, inspired by the Japanese post-war economic miracle, and his search of information led him to the paradox of the nuclear plants in Japan, most of them in earthquake and tsunami sensitive areas, so .
One month later Japan was hit by a strong earthquake leading to the collapse of the Fukushima nuclear plant, and its innumerable consequences.
Such coincidence is amazing and strangely connects this new Biosphere album. Having a look at pictures of these Japanese nuclear plants online it becomes obvious than they exhale a kind of deleterious otherworldliness, which can echo the pure digital nature of this record.
I think the last time I seriously listened to Biosphere, it was in 1994, as he was one of the best examples of the ambient scene of this era, purely electronic and disconnected to reality. At this time I had difficulties to totally connect with this expression and it seemed somewhat superficial.
I don't know if he changes or if my perception evolved, but in 2011, "N-plants" offers much more depth and nuances than my memory of his early releases. Maybe it's because of the passing of time and of the fact there is is nothing surprising anymore in this kind of music, no real entertainment, so all the sounds can contribute to something much more reflexive and abstract, and that's how I tried to tackle up with his compositions.
The opening "Sendai-1" (each track name refers to a specific Japanese nuclear plant), is simply amazing, and vibrates not unlike some Gas, Pan•American or William Basinksi compositions, as everything seems to play at two levels, between drones and beats, with a slow evolution, due for some part to hazardous conjunctions, how something can be both soothing and worrying at the same time.
On "Shika-1" you feel like a butterfly almost floating in the air but with a spider's thread atached to your legs, bringing you back slowly towards the ground.
"Joyo" is somewhat oppressive with an almost metallic taste while the sun's warmth radiates delicately.
Seen from the distance, "Ikata-1" looks almost like an holiday resort and Geir Jenssen plays on this confusion and we feel like lazying around in a comfy chaise longue.
There is an alien quality with "Monju-1" and the use of Japanese spoken words used in the background reminds me some old Laurie Anderson tracks. The use of bells sounds during the intro of "Monju-2" is a reference to Japanese traditional music before the track falls into more typical electronic music.
And it will goes on in this direction for the rest of the album. "Genkai-1" is too generic for me, back to the old days of early nineties electronica à la Warp, with synthetic beat, bass, and pads. Same conclusion for "Oi-1" and for the last track who is also the only one not using a n-plant name.
Strangely this album loses its substance and goes on autopilot mode during the second half which probably would have justified a reworking, but for the first part only it deserves attentive listening.