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

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Film Soundtracks - Released November 11, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Acclaimed for film scoring in the past 15 years, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has recently become the trusted go-to collaborator for director Denis Villeneuve and his stunning pictures, 2013's Prisoners and 2015's Sicario. Now they have delivered their third collaboration, the sci-fi movie Arrival. It should be noted foremost that Jóhannsson approached the score in a traditional way, recording everything with session musicians in assorted rooms, using the effect of layering to create texture with little use of sequencers, and relying on the processing of acoustics as opposed to digital manipulation. The move has proven to be a bold one, as the score is an entirely unique contribution to the story that it's soundtracking. The opening title track sets the tone, consisting of layer upon layer of piano drones that mesh between one another, some slightly higher in pitch than others, building to one of the most gradual, ominous crescendos you've ever heard. "Heptapod B" introduces the first taste of vocal manipulation. Recorded with vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices, indistinct voices segue, meld, and layer upon one another as distant, rumbling percussion and reverberated bass wash around the central theme. "Sapir-Whorf" largely consists of the same vocals, while urgent violas cut in, giving us Jóhannsson's signature use of discordant bass tones, something that the composer has always done magnificently, transforming a stringed instrument into something that is effectively utilized as percussion. A key success with this soundtrack is the use of velocity and volume; at one point or another, every element seems to fade away into silence or give way to other instrumentation, only to unexpectedly return at certain points, completely transforming the overall timbre of the track. "First Encounter" exemplifies this well, harking back to Jóhannsson's approach with Sicario; those distinct, queasy bass strings that rise and fall unpredictably give way to a silence that is just as effective as the parts occupied by other sounds. While some tracks encapsulate ambience and awe, others are a bit more concerned with action-oriented scenes, and the overall sonic palette is something quite different and never boring. Penultimate track "Rise" delivers more of those huge, sweltering, and organic bass notes with portentous strings, while some of the record's final vocal snippets calm the mix in every other bar. Which moves on nicely into the final track, "Kangaru," where listeners are reintroduced to the vocal experimentation from earlier, yet with bright and opulent string suites drifting around the mix. Another testament to Jóhannsson is that he began writing the score as shooting of the film began -- an impressive feat considering how well Villeneuve can trust his composer to soundtrack his vision before it's even left his head. Arrival is a fantastic album and a great piece of film score work, delivering menacing, daunting cacophonies of noise that evoke all types of fear, wonder, and intrigue that are evident within the movie itself. © Rob Wacey /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released April 5, 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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Film Soundtracks - Released February 2, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Film Soundtracks - Released April 12, 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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Film Soundtracks - Released September 14, 2018 | Lakeshore Records

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Film Soundtracks - Released September 17, 2013 | WaterTower Music

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Film Soundtracks - Released April 19, 2019 | 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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Film Soundtracks - Released May 29, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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

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Musical Theatre - Released December 8, 2014 | ASH INTERNATIONAL

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Film Soundtracks - Released November 11, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
Acclaimed for film scoring in the past 15 years, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has recently become the trusted go-to collaborator for director Denis Villeneuve and his stunning pictures, 2013's Prisoners and 2015's Sicario. Now they have delivered their third collaboration, the sci-fi movie Arrival. It should be noted foremost that Jóhannsson approached the score in a traditional way, recording everything with session musicians in assorted rooms, using the effect of layering to create texture with little use of sequencers, and relying on the processing of acoustics as opposed to digital manipulation. The move has proven to be a bold one, as the score is an entirely unique contribution to the story that it's soundtracking. The opening title track sets the tone, consisting of layer upon layer of piano drones that mesh between one another, some slightly higher in pitch than others, building to one of the most gradual, ominous crescendos you've ever heard. "Heptapod B" introduces the first taste of vocal manipulation. Recorded with vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices, indistinct voices segue, meld, and layer upon one another as distant, rumbling percussion and reverberated bass wash around the central theme. "Sapir-Whorf" largely consists of the same vocals, while urgent violas cut in, giving us Jóhannsson's signature use of discordant bass tones, something that the composer has always done magnificently, transforming a stringed instrument into something that is effectively utilized as percussion. A key success with this soundtrack is the use of velocity and volume; at one point or another, every element seems to fade away into silence or give way to other instrumentation, only to unexpectedly return at certain points, completely transforming the overall timbre of the track. "First Encounter" exemplifies this well, harking back to Jóhannsson's approach with Sicario; those distinct, queasy bass strings that rise and fall unpredictably give way to a silence that is just as effective as the parts occupied by other sounds. While some tracks encapsulate ambience and awe, others are a bit more concerned with action-oriented scenes, and the overall sonic palette is something quite different and never boring. Penultimate track "Rise" delivers more of those huge, sweltering, and organic bass notes with portentous strings, while some of the record's final vocal snippets calm the mix in every other bar. Which moves on nicely into the final track, "Kangaru," where listeners are reintroduced to the vocal experimentation from earlier, yet with bright and opulent string suites drifting around the mix. Another testament to Jóhannsson is that he began writing the score as shooting of the film began -- an impressive feat considering how well Villeneuve can trust his composer to soundtrack his vision before it's even left his head. Arrival is a fantastic album and a great piece of film score work, delivering menacing, daunting cacophonies of noise that evoke all types of fear, wonder, and intrigue that are evident within the movie itself. © Rob Wacey /TiVo
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Film Soundtracks - Released August 3, 2018 | Lakeshore Records

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Film Soundtracks - Released July 13, 2018 | Lakeshore Records

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