So how else to talk about this evocative, 70-minute album without calling it haunted? Ghosts and half-forgotten songs of the past are all but made corporeal by Jenssen and the Argeïphontes Lyre, a piece of "impossible to understand" music software that favors abstraction and randomization. These 17 tracks are all texture, drone and wilted tension—the rhythms and synth melodies of Biosphere's recent albums have vanished. "Sweet Dreams Form A Shade" and "Behind The Stove" float in the angelic vicinity of Julianna Barwick and Grouper, while a tonal piece like "Invariable Cowhandler" is more about delicate frequency modulation and imperceptible atmosphere. "Down On Ropes" is pure low-end rumble and subconscious melody, almost womblike. Departed Glories keeps to a sparse but bewitching sound palette, which makes each arrangement engage directly and deeply with the listener. As Jenssen recently explained to RA's Andrew Ryce, "It's kind of introverted music, maybe… I feel it's more like you should listen to it alone."
The sense of a haunted place—a moonlit forest, perhaps, or a cold, disused building—pervades the album. There's a uniformity across the music that makes it all feel beholden to one location, as if Departed Glories is itself a ghost unable to pass on. So while some songs stand out from the others (the gossamer "With Precious Benefits To Both" is a majestic highlight, and the guitar and organ in "Aura In The Kitchen With Candlesticks" are a welcome change), many of them blend together in their resonant feedback and reverberating voices. These qualities foster a kind of hypnosis, or at least make the album sound like a fully realized concept, but they can also feel flat and motionless.
Departed Glories could be the best Biosphere album since the canonized Substrata, but that probably says more about the records in between than anything else. Where this detailed, otherworldly ambience remains true to Jenssen's early work, the movement and textural range that marked his classics are largely missing. Still, this is a record that Biosphere fans will enjoy losing themselves in. Like the Wolski forest and its ghosts, Departed Glories brings you far into its unknown expanse, never showing you a way out.
Sun / 9 Oct 2016
01. Out Of The Cradle
02. Well And Purpose
03. Down On Ropes
04. Free From The Bondage You Are In
05. With Their Paddles In A Puddle
06. Than Is The Mater
07. Sweet Dreams Form A Shade
08. Aura In The Kitchen With The Candlesticks
09. Departed Glories
10. Whole Forests Of Them Appearing
11. Invariable Cowhandler
12. Behind The Stove
13. You Want To See It Too
14. In Good Case And Rest
15. Tomorrow Then We Will Attend
16. With Precious Benefits To Both
17. Fall Asleep For Me