Published November 5, 2004
When not delivering catchy melodies on vintage synthesizers in electronic rock outfit Apparat Organ Quartet, Jóhann Jóhannsson makes albums of mellow and beautiful contemporary classical compositions mixed with electronica and released on prestigious UK avant-garde label Touch. His second solo album “Virðulegu forsetar” consists of an hour-long piece in four movements and was recorded in Hallgrímskirkja, performed mainly with wind instruments by the Caput ensemble. Compared to his first album, “Englabörn,” the electronics have here been pushed further away into the background, to serve only as an icy undertone to the slow and foreboding compositions. This might very well be where part of Jóhann’s strength lies – in the ability to successfully integrate electronic elements that could be made to sound hostile, but instead work very well with the atmospheres and harmonies, while at the same time providing an uneasy counterpart and an element of chaos to the meditative beauty of the work.
For those of us who missed the highly acclaimed staging of the piece back in 2003, this is a chance to catch up. Using DVD Audio technology, the release is aimed at partially recreating the powerful sound of the actual performances, but then of course you need to have more than a decent stereo.