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Classical - Released September 16, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Film Soundtracks - Released May 29, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Electronic - Released December 4, 2015 | Sonic Pieces

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Classical - Released March 23, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released March 8, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Film Soundtracks - Released September 18, 2015 | Varese Sarabande

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Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who crafted the Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated piano-and-strings-centered score for the 2014 biopic The Theory of Everything, created a very different type of score for the action/crime film Sicario, released in 2015. A mix of quietly emotive, violin-led symphonic song and distorted, dissonant, percussive orchestral noise, Sicario [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] delivers tension and off-kilter anxiety in both hushed and hyper musical moments. Jóhannsson and film director Denis Villeneuve previously collaborated on 2013's Prisoners. © Marcy Donelson /TiVo
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Classical - Released September 20, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Electronic - Released November 3, 2008 | 4AD

The second installment in Jóhann Jóhannsson's trilogy of albums about technology and iconic American brand names, Fordlandia expands on IBM 1401, A User's Manual by chronicling, among other things, the failure of Henry Ford's Brazilian rubber plant with the power of a 50-piece string orchestra. IBM, which included recordings of its titular computer, could have been gimmicky or overly conceptual, but the results were remarkably moving and personal. While Fordlandia is slightly more straightforward musically, its concepts and emotional impact are much more involved and ambitious. Fittingly, ambition is one of the album's major themes, along with failure, mortality, immortality, and technology's potential for creation and destruction. Jóhannsson depicts these dualities with portraits of great heights and, mostly, deep losses. Ford's doomed project -- which he envisioned as a utopia but ended in disaster, with rioting workers and the development of synthetic rubber, ultimately costing him millions of dollars -- provides the thematic backbone for the album's major pieces. "Fordlandia"'s strings and subtle electric guitars are never less than majestic, but move gradually and naturally from hope to bittersweet doubt over the course of 13 minutes, keeping the intimacy that Jóhannsson's work has shown since Englaborn. That bittersweetness wells into sorrow on "Fordlandia -- Aerial View"; recorded in a Reykjavik church with no edits, its aching strings and low-rumbling percussion sound equally devastated and beautiful. Fordlandia also tells equally fascinating stories of creation and destruction that are less well known than Ford's: "The Rocket Builder (Lo Pan!)" takes its inspiration from self-taught chemist, rocket propulsion researcher, and occultist Jack Parsons, building from strings to precise electronics that overtake the track with a tense, slightly sinister beauty that deepens into dread thanks to doomy guitar chords. Its foil is "Melodia (Guidelines for a Space Propulsion Device Based on Heim's Quantum Theory)," inspired by German physicist Burkhard Heim, who, despite being blind, deaf, and having lost his hands in a World War II accident, devised a theory for space travel faster than the speed of light. Named after a research paper based on his work, the piece soars skyward on a looping pipe organ melody and streaming synths and strings, offering some hope among the rest of Fordlandia's gloom. "The Great God Pan is Dead" -- which alludes to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems about the demigod who embodied creation and destruction for her -- crystallizes these dualities, as well as the album's profound sense of loss, with choral vocals and rain. Fordlandia's shorter pieces are nearly as heady and substantial as its major tracks: "Chimaerica"'s title blends the monster of Greek mythology with America, and its mournful pipe organ melody underscores the feeling that this album is a funeral service for the American dream. Variations on the "Melodia" theme tie the larger pieces together, appearing first as a clarinet-driven piece that evokes Ford's '20s heyday, then augmented with deep guitars inspired by Sunn 0)))'s work, and finally as a ghostly wash of strings and clarinets. Another 13-minute elegy, "How We Left Fordlandia," closes the album by uniting its concepts and musical themes in a somber but satisfying farewell. While knowing the inspiration behind the album reveals its depth, its music is more than powerful enough to be appreciated without the historical context that informs it. Beautiful, thoughtful, and sad on a grand scale, Fordlandia is nearly as ambitious as the stories it tells, but unlike its source material, it's another success for Jóhannsson. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Electronic - Released October 9, 2006 | 4AD

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Electronic - Released December 8, 2017 | 4AD

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Film Soundtracks - Released April 12, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Pop - Released March 29, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Film Soundtracks - Released September 14, 2018 | Lakeshore Records

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Film Soundtracks - Released May 29, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Film Soundtracks - Released March 15, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

On his 2005 album, Jóhann Jóhannsson continued his style-scrambling mix of impulses with the gusto evident on earlier work. The opening "Banlol Northursins" crosses everything from winsome lo-fi organ pop to space rock zone to slow and steady funk breaks and more, with an aesthetic that can best be summed up as beholden to none of these styles in particular. It makes even more sense as a result that the immediately following song, "10 Rokkstig," is a sharp, peppy electro-rock number that should be concluding a triumphant teen dramedy epic in space. The album's flow of often short, discrete songs further emphasizes a sense of the soundtrack-for-the-unfilmed movie, mood setters that work all over the map in the best of ways. There's elegant piano-led moodiness like "Já, Hemmi Minn" and "Ónefnt" that Wong Kar-Wai might kill for (especially when the latter breaks into a slow waltz groove). Meantime, songs like "Eíripídes, Og Neðtipídel," with its brawling drum punch, and deep bass growls against softer tones and bells toward the end add a peppy tinge to the tune. There's a revisiting of sounds as the album continues, but sometimes in unexpected ways -- if "Ljósrit" is the first song over again, it's a shorter and even moodier version. Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about Dis is how clearly Jóhannsson embraces and then reuses so many elements of what was labeled as glitch or experimental techno for his own particular ends. It would be a disservice to say he adds heart to such music, but the more immediate embrace of sonic melancholia and sweetness on songs like "Pynnkudagur" -- yet another roll-the-credits song of the highest quality -- as piano, subharmonics, soft electronic melodies, and distant voices combine, can't be denied. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Classical - Released July 15, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Film Soundtracks - Released April 5, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Film Soundtracks - Released March 22, 2019 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Like many composers and musicians who make primarily instrumental music, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work has been described as filmic, and he has in fact scored several films. Still, And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees occupies a special place in his body of work. This music was written for Marc Craste’s 2008 short animated film Varmints -- which was adapted from Helen Ward’s Craste's illustrated book of the same name -- and it’s a story that fits the concerns Jóhannsson explored in works like IBM: A User’s Manual and Fordlandia with almost eerie perfection. Technology, hubris, overconsumption, and the environment all factor into Varmints’ tale of a little animal who must find a way to protect life as he knows it from an encroaching city. With the help of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir, Jóhannsson covers purity and corruption, hope and despair, and the natural and mechanical worlds over the course of 37 minutes; a short-form work compared to some of his other albums. But while the massiveness of works like Fordlandia was part of what made them so stunning, And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees’ strength comes from its small size -- much like the varmint the film follows. In just over three minutes, “Theme” sketches out the fragile beauty of the animal’s bee-filled meadow and the first hints of the coming devastation; “The Flat”’s industrial drones and electronic vapor trails evoke its aftermath in just a few minutes more. Even if this isn’t among Jóhannsson’s bleakest music, it’s among his most emotional, and much more somber than most scores for animated films. Yet his approach is never cartoonish. If anything, “Entering the City”’s muted strings and harp and the beckoning pipe organ and choir of “Siren Song” are some of his subtlest pieces, making the glimpses of light and hope in “Pods” and “Rainwater” -- which sounds so fresh that it seems to carry a breeze -- all the more tantalizing. As always, Jóhannsson conveys these shifts in mood effortlessly but with great nuance. The album’s most hopeless moments, such as the almost weeping soprano vocals on “City Building (Alt. Version)” and the vast bleakness of “Escape,” come before the sunrise of “Inside the Pods”’ strings and “End Theme”’s wide-open joy, but it feels far from clichéd. And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees was originally available as a 1000-copy vinyl release on Jóhannsson’s 2009 North American tour, but many more people than that need to hear this intimate album from a composer who expresses himself more exquisitely with each work. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Classical - Released March 23, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Film Soundtracks - Released January 27, 2014 | Editions Milan Music

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