Biosphere/Deathprod:Nordheim Transformed

bio-nt.jpg Biosphere/Deathprod:Nordheim Transformed
(Rune Grammofon - 1998)

In and of itself, Nordheim Transformed is an absorbing collection of works featuring two Norwegian artists, recycling a third. Coupled with the "source" CD (Arne Nordheim's Electric) the package is one of the finest I've encountered, and earns the title of AmbiEntrance #1 Recording of the Year.

One artist is Biosphere, the highly regarded Geir Jenssen, with whom I'm familiar for his solo works as well as from his Bel Canto days. The other is Deathprod of whom I know nothing. Interestingly, the Deathprod material, perhaps because I had no expectations, simply blows me away. Not to say the Biosphere's tracks aren't strong, because they are.

The artists more or less "take turns" in presenting us with their reinterpretations of Nordheim's material (originally recorded in late 60s/early 70s... please do refer to the separate Nordheim review for more information). My only complaint with this collection is that I would liked to have seen liner notes even half as detailed as those which accompany the Nordheim disc.

Quietly phasing in, and swirling in a slowly looping vortex, trasperanza features a low electric hum accented by twinkling bell tones and clunky xylophone notes. A Biosphere track, the piece locks into a pattern and basically holds it, though the dreamy nature keeps it from seeming too repetitive. Deathprod's dark and lovely journey to the center of the first 1.1 opens on a honky horn and shifts into sweltering haze. Bits and pieces of the original Nordheim track (warszawa in this case) are more or less apparent, though this reworking doesn't go as many places, choosing to focus on a few specific locales, which are range from dank to lush.

Muffled bleeps and a heart-like beat pump life into katedra botaniki, around which hazy fragments float. High screechy tones (like an electric cicadas) override the atmospheric and grey backdrop. warp/warble is an achingly gorgeous piece to my ears, tantalizing for the sounds which are almost heard as the piece drifts on a cold, dark sea. Overhead slow bell tones softly ring and underneath a rumbling wave courses back and forth... and on the horizon, a faint, unattainable melody teases. I must look into Deathprod's other works...

An actual musical sensibility is found in the opening moments of les fluer du mal; the notes are joined, then overtaken, by an electric drone and bleepy twinkles, which also fade. Disembodied voices fill the void left behind, forming a loop of their own which receives accompaniment from more bell-bleeps and xylo-rhythm. Not only is this Biosphere track the longest (11:23), but it takes more twists and turns in its journey, revisiting with some of its component sounds.

Two more Deathprod tracks close the disc. In the short (2:46) twin decks, a pattern of foggy notes echo and ring. A dense, ominous shaft of sound leads the listener on a journey to the center of the first 1.2. Then, more peaceful, highly sustained bells stretch in continual, thrumming chords with shorter tinkles and hums blending in, until all fades away.

Nordheim Transformed gets Two Thumbs Up on its own merit, but couldn't have been done without its source material. As a box set with Nordheim's Electric, it's a an incomparable study in which brilliant, original experimentalism meets top-notch remixism. For any fan of experimental sounds, the discs are an absolute necessity. Learn more at Rune Grammofon.
This review posted December 25, 1998

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