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Howard Shore, and Radiohead. In other words, true to his ambition, Jóhannsson cannot be labeled, as his follow-up confirmed. VIRÐULEGU FORSETAR, recorded in Reykjavik’s formidable Hallgrimskirkja, with its 5,275-pipe organ (but legendarily poor acous- tics), is a majestic, four-part opus for 11 brass play- ers, organ, piano, bells and percussion that towers above most of this century’s classical minimalism (2004; Touch TO64 CD/DVD-A, OOP, 65m 35s). Jóhannsson then turned to a planned trilogy of albums devoted to “technology and industrial ar- cheology.” Inspired by his father’s tape recording of an IBM mainframe computer, IBM 1401, A USER’S MANUAL (2006; 12 Tónar 12T035/4AD CAD 2609, £10.61, 5 tracks, 42m 52s), is a five-part orches- tral triumph (with all electronic sounds derived from the IBM 1401 Data Processing System and a Hammond B3 organ with ring modulator, distor- tion, and filter pedals). It is best known for its finale (and Jóhannsson’s only single), “The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky’s Turned Black,” whose text is a poem by Dorothy Parker and which famously haunted the trailer for BATTLE: LOS ANGELES. The trilogy’s second installment, FORDLANDIA (2008; 4AD CAD2182, £12.97, 11 tracks, 65m 3s), is an immersive orchestral/electronic eulogy for Henry Ford’s failed dream of resurrecting, through assembly-line Americanization, the Bra- zilian rubber trade; its 14m+ opening and con- cluding passages echo with a utopian wonder that darkens into dystopian elegy.


The trilogy remains incomplete, no doubt be- cause of Jóhannsson’s full turn into film music. Although he had already scored ten films, includ- ing three cues for Paul McGuigan’s WICKER PARK (2004), demand for Jóhannsson’s eclectic orches- tral/electronic maneuvers, whose organic impulses were the antithesis of the Hans Zimmer school, grew with each new release. These consisted of: elec- tronically treated orchestral/choral cues for the short film “Varmints” (2008), expanded and released as AND IN THE ENDLESS PAUSE THERE CAME THE SOUND OF BEES (2010; TYPE064, £13.14, 13 tracks, 40m 41s); pulsing string sequences for Phie Ambo’s documentary FREE THE MIND (2012, MUTE NTOV6CD, £15.97, 17 tracks, 36m 51s); the el- egant keyboard and string quartet miniatures of COPENHAGEN DREAMS, composed for Max Kestner’s documentary DREAMS IN COPEN- HAGEN (2012; 12 Tónar 12T061B, €15.00, 19 tracks, 40m 38s); and haunting orchestral rumina- tions for Josh C. Waller’s McCANICK (2014; Milan M2-30669, $15.59, 15 tracks, 42m 10s). Then came Jóhannsson’s orchestral collage (with harp and music box) for THE THEORY OF


EVERYTHING, whose emotive power never wanes despite its economical structure: twenty-seven cues timing in at less than 3m each (2014; Universal BLM0280, $16.78, 27 tracks, 48m 58s). Yet, de- spite the accolades for THE THEORY OF EVERY- THING, Jóhannsson’s best film music to date has come in other contexts, in collaboration with two iconoclastic directors: Bill Morrison and Denis Villeneuve.


THE MINERS’ HYMNS, Morrison’s brilliant as- semblage of 100 years of wordless footage in hom- age to England’s extinct coal mining industry and its fallen workers, found Jóhannsson evoking colliery brass band traditions (2011; FatCat CD13-13, £10.28, 6 tracks, 59m 8s). Recorded in Durham Cathedral, Jóhannsson’s requiem is scored for an all-brass ensemble (with organ and his inevitable electronic subtleties), and ranks among the best of so-called “holy minimalism.”


For Villeneuve, Jóhannsson produced the sadly overlooked score for PRISONERS, which featured performances by Thomas Bloch on Cristal Baschet (a five-octave friction idiophone) and Ondes Martenot. His melancholic soundscapes and lush processed orchestral drones wept with emotion and imbued this dark and difficult film with passion and sadness (2013; Water Tower WTM39487, $9.99, 16 tracks, 54m 21s). Jóhannsson’s later music for Villeneuve’s SICARIO represents his first full-throttle excursion into the violent action genre, and he went all-in. Despite moments of characteristic melancho- lia, the primary aesthetic of this momentous score is relentlessly percussive and industrial, what might be called orchestral grindcore—or, in Jóhannsson’s words, “like the throbbing heart of a beast charging at you” (2015; Varése Sarabande 302 067 369 8, $13.99, 18 tracks, 54m 11s).


At this writing, Jóhannsson’s latest score is for his own short film, “End of Summer,” available in a CD/DVD edition from his website.


For an Audio Watchdog tribute to the music of Iceland, visit douglasewinter.com. For addi- tional information about the composers, perform- ers, and discs, visit johannjohannsson.com, 12tonar.is, facebook.com/ApparatOrganQuartet, facebook.com/Evil-Madness-46785331315, touch33.net, 4AD.com, watertower-music.com, milanrecords.com, and VaréseSarabande.com.


You can contact the Audio Watchdog on- line at OnEyeDog@aol.com or by visiting douglasewinter.com. Review materials should be sent c/o Vale House, 2495 Oakton Hills Drive, Oakton VA 22124.


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