Biosphere / Deathprod: Stator

Certainly one key for unlocking this split album by Norwegian artists Biosphere (Geir Jenssen) and Deathprod (Helge Sten) lies in its title, for which two definitions are provided in the accompanying press release: in terms of electrical engineering, stator refers to “the stationary part of a rotary machine or device, especially of a motor or generator”; in an aeronautical context, the term refers to a “system of non-rotating radially arranged parts within a rotating assembly, especially the fixed blades of an axial flow compressor in a gas turbine.” Put simply, stator naturally has to do with stasis, yet movement is also part of the mix, too. Stator isn't the first time the two have worked together, by the way: in 1999 they released a reconfiguration of composer Arne Nordheim's music called Nordheim Transformed. The fundamental difference between the two projects is that the material on Stator is fully original, with three tracks credited to Biosphere and four to Deathprod (who also mastered the recording at his Audio Virus Lab).

While the artists' tracks are complementary, they're also reflective of their different styles. In characteristic Biosphere style, sonar-like blips punctuate repeated exhales of gaseous emissions during “Muses-C,” which derives its strongest sense of animation from a bright, rather dubwise bass-and-percussion combination. “Baud” and “Space is Fizzy” exude rhythmic thrust, too, but are more notable for the cumulative impact of their sound design. Pulling the listener's attention away from a kinetic bass-prodded pulse slithering through “Space is Fizzy,” for instance, are clockwork melodic patterns and percussive accents.

Deathprod's opening salvo “Shimmer/Flicker” is as macabre as anything else in Sten's catalogue, even if the aggressiveness of its harrowing opening episode gives way to something a little less nightmarish (if still unsettling) in the second half. His major strike arrives at album's end in the form of “Optical,” which swells into a billowing cloud mass in classic Deathprod fashion during its ten-minute run. That said, Sten largely hews to the quieter side of the sonic realm in his pieces without sacrificing anything in the way of atmospheric suggestiveness.

Admittedly Stator, while a perfectly credible account of the two artists and their respective approaches, won't be remembered as the album most representative of the artists' best work, which are generally considered to be 1997's Substrata for Biosphere and the 2004 box set for Deathprod (though arguments also could be made on behalf of Biosphere's Shenzou and Autour de la lune and Deathprod's Morals and Dogma on that count). Even so, Stator lives up to the implicit conceptual promise of its title in the way its seven settings reconcile stasis and movement.

May 2015