Monday, December 18, 2006

GEIR JENSSEN: Cho Oyu 8201m (Ash International)

GEIR JENSSEN
Cho Oyu 8201m: Field Recordings From Tibet
ASH7.1
Ash International 2006
12 Tracks. 48mins15secs




Buy it: CD
Biosphere | Ash International

Best known for his ambient work as Biosphere, Norwegian musician Geir Jenssen is also an accomplished mountaineer. In 2001, he took part, with five other climbers and a Sherpa, in an expedition to climb Mount Cho Oyo, the sixth highest summit in the world. Culminating at 8201m, the mount is situated on the border between Tibet and Nepal, a stone throw away from Mount Everest. This album and its accompanying booklet document the month-long expedition and give an insight into Jenssen’s state of mind during the trip. It also gives an idea of what mountaineers attempting such a journey are faced with, from freezing cold temperatures to altitude sickness and physical and mental pain.

Armed with a MiniDisc recorder, a microphone and a shortwave radio receiver, Jenssen collected field recordings through the whole ascension and they are presented here entirely in their naked form, documenting the journey from the moment the expedition crossed the border into Tibet to reaching the first base camp, various intermediate camps and finally the summit, thirty days later.

The recordings weave an intricate and, at times, oppressive, sonic web as the expedition progresses through the first stages of the ascent, ranging from urban noises and everyday life recorded in the last towns and villages crossed to herds in transit, music captured on the shortwave radio receiver, birds feeding, someone breathing through an oxygen mask and storms. As the expedition gets nearer to the goal, the accrued effort required due to the rarefied oxygen transpires through denser soundscapes and shorter selections, as if the simple fact of recording was progressively becoming too demanding.

While the recordings are stark testaments of the gruelling conditions faced by Jenssen and his companions, the accompanying essay, entitled Only Krishna & I, provides a much more personal and touching view on the expedition as Jenssen documents the journey, from the moment he finds an advert in a mountaineering magazine to being the only one, with his Sherpa, to reach the summit, to his return to Katmandu.


Click on the map for a bigger version. Map from www.tibetmap.com

Geir Jenssen’s work has often been tightly connected with his environment, from the club slant of his debut album as Bleep to the subtle sounds of nature of Substrata to machinery noises on Polar Sequences, recorded with Higher Intelligence Angency's Bobby Bird. Here, he shows once again his ability at creating evocative sceneries from carefully selected and processed field recordings, but the purpose is entirely different. This album and the associated essay record a deeply personal journey, which undoubtedly has marked his work since, through the austere structures of Autour De La Lune or the richer soundscapes of last year’s magnificent Dropsonde, which was partly built around recordings made during this expedition. Here, Jenssen exposes his soul in a way he has never done before, and continues to charts ambient territories for others to colonise.

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