Departed Glories

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Departed Glories is Norwegian ambient legend Biosphere's first release on Smalltown Supersound after a lengthy run of albums for Jon Wozencroft's drone-heavy Touch label, as well as several archival releases and reissues on the artist's own Biophon Records. No two Biosphere albums are alike (and there's over a dozen of them), but this one is much closer to the haunting, creaking soundscapes of his 1997 classic, Substrata, than his earliest techno releases, or even later albums like the jazzy Dropsonde (2005) or the downtempo N-Plants (2011). Biosphere's Geir Jenssen originates from Tromsø, a city within the Arctic Circle and not far from the Russian border, but he resides in Kraków, Poland, and this album is informed by all of those locations. The music is inspired by Poland's majestic Wolski Forest, and was constructed from hundreds of samples of Russian and Eastern European folk recordings. The album's striking cover art is a photo of an Armenian woman taken by Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky, a Russian chemist who pioneered color photography during the early 20th century. Like the cover art, the music strangely seems both ancient and current. The album's 17 tracks mainly consist of blurry, drifting layers of synthesizer drones that don't always seem perfectly in sync with each other, giving it a hazy, detached effect. Some of the pieces are very sparse and desolate, lurking in the shadows and suggesting distant movement without going into detail. The tracks that stand out the most are the ones utilizing ghostly voices, which end up sounding similar to Julianna Barwick's ethereal looped vocals on some occasions. However, here the voices are even further removed from sounding human, leaving only faint traces of melodies or emotions. Glancing at the track titles, including "Aura in the Kitchen with the Candlesticks" and "Whole Forests of Them Appearing," it's easy to construct a narrative involving ghosts, witches, and an enchanted forest, and the music is every bit as haunting. It's not entirely ominous, however; it's easy to detect shreds of joy in the obscured voices of "Sweet Dreams Form a Shade" and "Behind the Stove." As with nearly every Biosphere album, this one contains far more depth than it seems at first, so one shouldn't shrug it off if it doesn't cohere on the initial listen. It's music to get lost inside.

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