Boomkat Product Review:
Delivering a second long-form release for 4AD, Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson continues with a second part of his proposed trilogy of albums themed around iconic American brands.
After IBM 1401 - A User's Manual, Johannsson turns his attentions to Fordlandia, named after the expanse of land purchased by Henry Ford in the Brazillian rainforest - a failed settlement designed as a means for acquiring rubber in the 1920s. As it turns out, this is only one amongst a number of overlapping themes drawn from various obscure corners of modern history, all knitted together like something from Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle. The album is divided into a number of different threads, with themes recurring throughout - much as has been the case in Johannsson's previous works.
Here, between the grandeur and cinematic majesty of the Fordlandia-themed compositions you'll find the 'Melodia' series, taking on a more intimate, piano-driven and melancholy temperament. It's all beautifully produced, extracting the very strict, classical style of Johannsson's music from what might otherwise reach ECM-like levels of discipline. A good example of this is 'Chimaerica' which on the surface sounds like a pastiche of a Bach organ piece, dominated by dour ecclesiastical melodies until some digital intervention draws the sound design into the 21st century. In a similar fashion, 'The Great God Pan Is Dead' is shaped by beautiful choral arrangements and some extreme dynamic shifts - all very much within the realms of the conventional classical canon (Arvo Part being a clear influence) - when immediately after, 'Melodia (Guidelines For A Space Propulsion Device)' crunches into life with a very contemporary, backbeat-driven electronic sound.
Fordlandia is tremendously beautiful and, of course, comes highly recommended.