Biosphere – The Petrified Forest (Biophon Records, 2017)

The Petrified Forest

Biosphere’s Geir Jennssen wrote in a FactMag interview after the release of his last record that he “-always mean[s] to make a completely different album from the previous one”; a fairly bold statement, not least since with The Petrified Forest actually seems like something of a turning back of the clock to some of his earliest content. Bringing back some of the sample based, deconstructed Techno of his first records like Patashnik, we find ourselves in a woozy and nostalgic world in this new mini-album.

Much of this harkening back falls in the doublet of “Black Mesa” and “Turned to Stone”: the former is filled with endless cyclings, the beats slow and repetitive as they reinforce the melancholy words of Joan Lorring:

“Here in the desert, it’s just the same thing over and over again”

It’s unsettling in its consistency, its eternal drive to sameness, always turning back to the same lines and rhythms as though walking in circles, lost without navigational aid. The latter, “Turned to Stone” has a strangeness to it, a surprise opportunity to escape from the banality of the aforementioned desert evoked in classic Biosphere drone swells superimposed by woozy synth oscillations. “Do you think I’m attractive?” she says earnestly, “Would you like to be loved by me?”; those who don’t move, who don’t leave when the situation arrives, they end up like the trees in the Petrified Forest, their mistake frozen in time forever, fixed in eerie, mournful place.

The album shifts in its second half, as though the danger of being left behind is past; the title track still holds a certain exploratory darkness to it in the backfield certainly, but the drones are lighter, lush and quaint in a way as cymbals delicately play and patter over the top. Ground is being made, and we can practically see a vista emerging out of the regimented and oppressive trunks, the prospect of escape. Our little sojourn culminates in two sweet little pieces; closer “This Is The End” is fairly conclusive in its recitation, shimmying forwards on unravelling synth chords and drum machine beats into a fresh and optimistic future. But it’s in “Just One Kiss” where we find the highlight of the record, glowing with a nostalgic playfulness in its  jovial, though faded, rhythms, like a well worn memory. It’s good natured and polite, seeking a not-quite-so-perfunctory kiss at the end of the day; like all the pieces the Techno repetitions seem to sustain the moment endlessly, an endless stream on loop as we rewind the tape back on that instant again and again.

This is a short but sweet listen, and most importantlu a bit of a refreshing lapse back in time sonically for Jennssen; it’s you’re a fan of his older sound, that is to say the Microgravity, Patashnik and Substrata era of his catalogue, this may be one for you.