Autour de la Lune

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Invited to plough through Radio France's audio archives in order to create a work to be premiered at the Festival de Radio France et Montpellier, Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere) elected to use an early-'60s radio play on Jules Verne's novel De la Terre à la Lune. Thus was born Autour de la Lune (Around the Moon), on which Jenssen continued to work after its original broadcast. A 74-minute piece in nine movements, the final work is slightly disappointing in comparison to Biosphere's earlier efforts. Things start wonderfully well with the 20-minute "Translation," a sustained soundscape of distant analog melodies, faint transmissions, crackles, hisses, and engulfing atmospheres. But after this initial liftoff, the music is quickly fleshed out of its interesting elements to leave only quiet drones and low hums. Yes, it offers an apt representation of space vacuum and immensity, but beyond this rather facile level of poetry, the remainder of the piece offers little more than a minimal, detached contemplative soundscape. Some stages of this transformation stand out: "Modifié," consisting of heavily filtered music, like listening to a song on shortwave radio from a broadcast very far away, and "Tombant," the last movement, where the music picks up some momentum, sounding at times like some very early Tangerine Dream. On a conceptual level, Autour de la Lune is an interesting album, very much (possibly too) attuned with the widespread sound pictures of the space age. On a musical level, it is a rather flimsy effort from Biosphere.

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