D/B Artist Feature: Johann Johannsson

Jóhann Jóhannsson has been called by critics “Iceland’s foremost genre-crossing multi-instrumentalist” (Irish Times), “one of the bright lights in the already talent rich Icelandic underground music scene” (Aquarius Records), “the most compelling composer working today”, and “An important figure in Iceland’s new music scene at the turn of the millennium”. (All Music Guide). Amazing and wonderful album, D/B highly recommended!

His stately, slow-building and hauntingly melodic music, which frequently combines electronics with classical orchestrations, has been quietly bewitching listeners since he released his first solo record Englabörn in 2002 on the well respected British label Touch. The record was re-released in 2007 by 4AD, by which time its reputation and influence had grown. Englabörn was written for string quartet, percussion and electronics, and Jóhann’s second album, Virthulegu Forsetar (2004), for brass ensemble, drones and percussion.

Here is a new video by Magnus Helgason for Melodia (Guidelines for a Space Propulsion Device based on Heim’s Quantum Theory)

Both releases met substantial critical acclaim, and found their way onto many critics’ end of year lists. whilst his third album and his first for 4AD, IBM 1401 / A User’s Manual (2006), was his most ambitiously orchestrated composition to date involving a 60 piece string orchestra and incorporating electronics and vintage reel-to-reel recordings of an IBM 1401 mainframe computer. Jóhann’s most recent album, Fordlandia (4AD), was released in November 2008 to wide critical acclaim. Another orchestral album with a sound that expands upon his earlier work while breaking new ground, Fordlandia combines a darkly romantic minimalism and baroque counterpoint with Krautrock, post-rock, glitch electronics and melodies inspired by North European folk music. Although mostly instrumental, Jóhann’s work often involves complex narratives, which often deal with man’s relationship with the world of machines and decaying and obsolete technology.