Boomkat Product Review:
Very sadly, this is the posthumous pressing of a long-awaited reissue for Jóhann Jóhannsson’s world-taking début album, Englabörn, which is now packaged with an extra side of reworks by peers including A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Paul Corley, and Jóhannsson himself with Francesco Donadello.
Born in 1969 in Reykjavik, Iceland, Jóhann Jóhannsson passed this mortal coil on 9th February 2018 in Berlin, Germany. An esteemed regular on these pages since this release of his first album, Jóhannsson recorded for practically every notable modern classical label in circulation, and also worked extensively beyond those parameters alongside everyone from Marc Almond and Barry Adamson to avant garde maestros such as BJ Nilsen and Pan Sonic, including most recently recording a number of soundtracks to high profile Hollywood movies.
Opening with the instantly recognisable processed vocals of Odi et Amo, Jóhannsson’s first album recorded under his own name has long held an uncannily nostalgic appeal, one which takes on a new poignancy in light of his passing. For anyone yet to encounter Englabörn it will remain an unusually absorbing experience, while anyone familiar with its tremulous strings, fleeting plays of light and shivering electronics will surely hear it imbued with a new levity.
Of the Englabörn Variations, we’re most attracted to Jóhannsson’s revisions of his own work, alongside Francesco Donadello. The practically chopped & screwed version of Odi et Amo is highly likely to induce tears in susceptible listeners - also appearing as a more glacial bis rework - while Ryuichi Sakamoto also plays the heartstrings like an aeolian harp in his breathtaking rework of Jói & Karen, and cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir takes Sálfræðingur Deyr to its deepest point, before Paul Hilliard’s other vocal ensemble Theatre Of Voices leave us shivering with a final version of Odi Et Amo.
R.I.P. one the 21st century’s first, great composers.