Boomkat Product Review:
It's surely a testament to the quiet majesty and standalone power of his output that despite much of his material having been designed to accompany other people's projects, so much of Jóhann Jóhannsson's work is part of the classical canon in its own right. R.I.P. to a true master, taken from us far too soon.
One of his lesser-known works, this 2009 album for Type was composed as a soundtrack for Marc Craste's award winning animated film Varmints, and draws on the signature elements of Jóhannsson's compositional style: widescreen orchestration, beatific choirs and the most finely crafted electronic backdrops imaginable - all colluding for some of the most unashamedly beautiful music you'll hear in the genre.
It doesn't take Jóhannsson long to delineate the tone of what's to come, establishing an introductory theme for strings, backed with lyrical piano keys and a soundscape of seabirds and thunderclaps emerging from the mix in the latter stages. After these evocative, scene-setting beginnings comes a burst of celestial melodrama through 'City Building's choral passages, giving an indication of the unearthly extremes this composer has a penchant for. The more abstract and textural leanings of 'The Flat' take us somewhere different, flooding the track with phased, airy noise atmospheres and weightless strings.
The recurrent rumbling of deeply ingrained background static only reinforces how cinematic this music is; there's a tangible sense of place and mise-en-scene, but even beyond that, the album follows a kind of undulating structure that's very much in-keeping with the notion of a beginning-middle-end narrative; you can feel the music slipping into a sombre, minor-key mode by the end of 'The Gift', entering into the desolation of 'Dying CIty', with its processed field recordings and solitary voices.
'Escape', with its dark drones and broad solo cello strokes only reinforces the suggestion of peril, but by the album's final leg glimmers of optimism creep in, first imbuing 'Inside The Pods' with a magisterial, reverberant grandeur, before reaching outright jubilation over the course of the end theme - a dose of euphoric crescendo that does much to bring proceedings to a satisfying, breathtaking resolution.
The music on this album has already been awarded first prize for Best Original Score at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, and for our money is the finest thing Jóhannsson's done since his debut. He's just on exceptional, moving form here.