Record of the Week

Jóhann Jóhannsson “End of Summer”

Jóhann Jóhannsson “End of Summer” (Sonic Pieces)Jóhann Jóhannsson “End of Summer” (Sonic Pieces)

While I was travelling through Iceland in the summer of 2001, I got to know Jóhann Jóhannsson through a mutual friend. Back then he was still busy running the label “Kitchen Motors” together with Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir and Hilmar Jensson – an extremely ambitious, collectivist network of artist in the fields of music, film and art. Through his being involved with “Kitchen Motors” most of what should become crucial in shaping his future path was pretty much already at his disposal: works of art that are in-between genres, his being open-minded when it comes to experimenting with his art and his tendency to employ stringent concepts.

Jóhannsson manages to appreciate the volatile and yet all the while through his work starts multiple seismic waves, which then result in the most unobtrusive and modest hymnal music imaginable.

End of Summer” is the soundtrack to a documentary, which he himself filmed about the island of South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. The images appear unreal in a way that we only know from early silent films any more and through that it is almost impossible to believe that these recordings are genuinely real. However, despite the fact that the penguins we get to observe there are only captured in blurry images, they are as alive as is possible.

When I asked Jóhannsson in Iceland back in 2001 about the inner essence of his music, he replied that for him it was about important social issues. His albums in the following years, such as “Viroulegu Forsetar” and “Englabörn” (released on Touch Records) and “Forlandia” (released on 4AD), as well as his work on the soundtrack for James Marsh’s “The Theory of Everything” stand witness to what exactly he means by that: Jóhannsson stands for lived solidarity through music in a world that pretty much stands for exactly the opposite.

End of Summer” is once again marked by an over-whelming sense of sadness. If this is the end of summer, then I don’t even want to know what the beginning of autumn would feel like, not to mention eternal winter. An uncanny sense of severity lies on this world that is captured in black and white. The music that accompanies these images, music which has been created together with Hildur Guðnadóttir and Robert A. A. Lowe, forms the exact counter-point: opposing the great white plains of the islands which are being portrayed, the music comes across as crammed into the space of an intimate play, which is not least because of the distinctive sound of the monotonous and experimental cellos and the beautifully dissonant synthesisers. In “End of Summer” Jóhannsson celebrates four studies of decay in such a magnificent manner that it is hard to imagine that anyone will ever manage to capture the ambivalence of existence through the means of music more accurately and beautifully, than Jóhannsson has done it in this case.

(Translation: Tanita Sauf)

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