Substrata 2/Man with a Movie Camera


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Substrata 2/Man with a Movie Camera Review

by François Couture

Substrata 2 is not a sequel to Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere's critically acclaimed 1997 CD, but a generously engrossed reissue. Following the success of Cirque, the artist's first album for the highly regarded U.K. label Touch, and coinciding with a string of live dates around England, the company decided to give this classic a complete overhaul. New artwork was produced by Touch artist Jon Wozencroft, the 11 original tracks were remastered, and a second CD was added. Of Substrata itself, little need to be said: The music is clearly into ambient domain, dominated by soft field recordings and lazy guitar lines (think of Loren Mazzacane Connors, Low, or even Godspeed You Black Emperor!). The techno element has been relegated to electronic manipulations and discreet events of glitch. A monologue in Russian appears as a watermark in "Kobresia," bringing Biosphere's music surprisingly close to Tibor Szemzö's. Disc two contains over 50 minutes of music. First is the soundtrack to Man With a Movie Camera, a Russian silent film by Dziga Vertov dating back to 1929. Jenssen was asked to create a soundtrack using the director's instructions for the accompanying piano player. The results are very cinematic -- which is not that easy to accomplish. Eerie atmospheres, dominated by synthesizers this time, are interwoven with snippets of speech. In this project the music paradoxically moves into both more conventional techno domains, with the return of pulse, even constructed linear beats in "City Wakes Up" and "Ballerina," and electro-acoustics verging on musique concrète ("Manicure"). "Freeze-Frames," with its short looped samples acting like a gallery of half-remembered images, provides the highlight. This second disc also contains two bonus tracks from the Substrata sessions, previously available only on the Japanese edition. "The Eye of the Cyclone" and "Endurium" are the most beat-driven music of the whole set, clearly club-oriented (especially in the first case). One easily understands why they were left off the original album.

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