Johann Johannsson – Fordlandia (4AD/ Remote Control)


There’s something incredibly cinematic about Icelandic artist Johann Johannsson’s second album in a proposed trilogy about technology. Of course sweeping strings immediately convey both cinema and emotion in this day and age, yet Fordlandia feels like a higher artistic achievement, like he’s reaching beyond the form and into the loftier possibilities of what modern classical music and cinematic scores could and should offer. I hear links to Michael Nyman or perhaps even Max Richter, a world away from the calculated synthetic kitchness of most current day scores. Though that’s not to say it isn’t designed to tear at the emotions. Firstly there’s the unmistakable grandeur of its structures (it is something of a concept album after all), then its widescreen gestures, and its pairing of electronics and traditional orchestral instrumentation. Then in his online notes Johannsson speaks of Jodorowsky, Herzog (particularly Fitzcarraldo) and Kenenth Anger, when discussing his themes of a failed utopia. It’s apparently about failed rubber baron Henry Ford’s attempt to create a Utopian American community deep in the Amazon jungle in the 1920’s. Here too I am reminded of Herzog during the filming of Fitzcarraldo where he says slightly hysterically in that impossibly precise thick German accent, ” the jungle hits back,” going on to lament “even the stars are a mess.” This is a lush work, recorded with the assistance of a 50 piece string orchestra in Prague, with ear splitting distorted guitar inspired by Sun 0))) mixed low, with pipe organs and clarinets, with drones, epic swells of sound and dark gentle silences as the music subsides. It’s serious, powerful and sublime. The ambitious nature, scope and sense of purpose of this music is absolutely overwhelming, primarily because it’s so rare. After Fordlandia everything else you come across will feel positively infantile.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.

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