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Bright, "Bells Break Their Towers"

Like label-mates Landing, Bright dish out melodic tracks rooted in '70s prog rock, but with a distinctively modern feel and looks ahead as much as it looks to the past. With its heavy repetition and psychedelic feel, it's also an eight-song spiritual journey.

Strange Attractors

"Manifest Harmony" in particular feels like a ritualistic incantation with circling and heavily patterned music and vocals. It's easy to imagine vocalist Mark Dwinell performing shamanic rites in the empty desert landscape shown in the album's artwork. Throughout the album Dwinell's almost-chanted lyrics are invocations atop the layers of chunky guitars. Many tracks sound like an arcane ceremony overheard through an open window. But the music isn't at all quiet and hymnal; this ain't Enya. The electric guitars continually make themselves known and they open "It's What I Need" with a snarl.

The album is laced with a distinct Eastern influence, though there aren't any actual sitars, the guitars effectively mimic their delicate sound. Ringing chimes in "Flood" reinforce the east-meets-west feeling.

The album feels so methodic and deliberate, that I was surprised to learn that Bright generally improvise in the studio. But that also adds to the overall spiritual feeling...instead of improvising, it feels more like Bright was channeling.

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The Eye: Video of the Day

Andreas Martin

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Review of the Day

Biosphere, "Autour de la Lune"
Touch
Geir Jenssen lives in a different world. From his Artic Circle perch the man called Biosphere is building a body of work as iconoclastic as Aphex Twin, with as much eerie remove and accidental influence. Albums like Patashnik and Substrata are landmarks in ambient music not because they spawned a million rip-offs but because they work within a recognizable stylistic blueprint to create absolutely alien music, threatening total immersion to even the most cautious of "background" listeners. Jenssen's last, 2002's Shenzhou found him treading further towards alienating extremes, something like a pitch-black homage to Debussy, with orchestra samples stretched thin and opaque across an ocean of icy, crevice-filled ambience (in other words, what we all wished Drukqs had been). Autour, commissioned by French radio last year, not only rejects anything close to a wide "radio" audience, but it is by far the most trying Biosphere release thus far, with Jenssen moving past the beat-less transparencies begun with Substrata and into a harsh meditation on deep-space, a 74-minute confined drift that begins well into the air-less upper regions and does not conclude until positioned hopelessly within a dimensionless dump-off on the darker side of some heavenly body. Occupying a third of the disc's length, the opening "Translation" acts like the final kiss-off to Earth and the earthen sounds that often find a place in Biosphere music. A rebus of plastic tones, entwined with enough care to erase all human touch, becomes a sky-like ceiling with which groaning engine sounds and whining drones struggle in a pitiless slipping, past the threshold and into the heart of Autour. Apart from a track or two based around a few distorted samples from a 60s radio dramatization of Jules Verne's De la Terre à la Lune (the "focus" of the 2003 commission) and actual recordings of MIR astronauts, the majority of the disc develops a vacuous, unsettling atmosphere made up of seriously subsonic bass frequencies and shrill, synthetic tones dividing and encasing the deliberate arcs and hidden textures of each of the nine "movements." By the sixth track, "Circulaire," the trip has arrived at a false ending of sorts, an off-putting climax where the piece grounds out to two dissenting sounds, one a near-inaudible below-bass pulse and the other the sinister calm of a solid flatline. From this remote place, more Onkyo than Eno, Jenssen really has nowhere to drift except slowly back towards the beginning, to the lush plasticities of "Trombant," almost coming full circle on the opening track but stopping short, allowing melody and lush texture enough footing only to remind us of what has been left behind. Melodies emerge, like the aimless cosmonaut voice samples, as if beamed from a great distance, light years into the black, like ghosts of a human presence long since abandoned. Autour is not easy listening, and if it doesn't stand as the most returnable place in the Biosphere catalog, it's only because Jenssen has never sounded so remote and thoroughly haunting.

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