Published July 11, 2011
While Jóhann Jóhannsson’s status as a musician and producer in Iceland is assured, his soundtrack albums in the past, while sounding “nice”, suffered from a lack of depth and emotional resonance that can leave you cold.
However with his latest work, ‘The Miners Hymns’, he captures a real feeling of fury and bereavement.
Written as the score to Bill Morrison’s film about the destruction of mining communities in North East England, Jóhannsson eschews the usual instruments associated for melancholy (strings) and instead taps into the power of brass, which has a strong cultural and political significance in the area.
Jóhann utilises his knowledge of space and atmosphere from his ambient work to create the sound of ghosts from a windswept industrial past coming back to haunt the present with a warning (think Ingram Marshall allied with The Caretaker). When the force hits on ‘An Injury To One Is A Concern To All’, it has the grandeur of Holst with the attack of Sunn o))). Despite the despair, the hope and confidence of the final track, ‘The Cause Of Labour Is The Hope Of The World’, walks us out of the dark into the light with its heart-aching harmonies.
With the ´The Miners Hymns’, Jóhannsson has made music that radiates strength, anger and a strong political conviction not seen in his previous work. Essential listening.