Monday, June 15, 2009

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Jóhann Jóhannsson is an Icelandic composer who creates some of the most beautiful music in the world. His projects have ranged from electronic improvisation to full orchestra recordings. He has collaborated with artists including Sigur Ros, Mum, and others. A good friend introduced me to Jóhannsson's work about 5 or 6 years ago.

Englabörn (2002)
This was Jóhannsson's first solo album; his other work included the band Apparat Organ Quartet who consisted of 4 vintage refurbished synthesizers and drums. Englaborn is scored for
string quartet, keyboards (piano, harmonium, organ), glockenspiel, electronics, and percussion. It was originally created as a score for a play by Hávar Sigurjónsson. This album consists of many shorter tracks, creating swells and ebbs of sound.

Virðulegu Forsetar (2004)
This albums is devastatingly beautiful and powerful. From the opening chord, it grips and pulls you with a slow but immense draw. The album was recorded in the
Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik. (photos of this church from my my trip to Iceland)This album only has four tracks and is much slower and gradual than Englaborn. There was a CD/DVD release of the album where the DVD was audio only- providing the music in 5.1 digital surround sound. I have never had the opportunity to listen to the DVD in a proper environment, but I believe it would be pretty amazing.

IBM 1401- A user's manual (2006)
This album's theme is centered around the first computer brought to Iceland- the IBM 1401. Johannsson uses original recordings made on this computer that his father created. Additionally there are audio instructions for the computer laced between the music. Much less heavy, this album is more whimsical and light. This is the first part of Johannsson's planned trilogy on technology and iconic American brands. Johannsson just release the second part of the trilogy, Fordlandia, in November of 2008. I haven't heard this album yet, but greatly anticipate it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Turing Machine

I don't remember where I first heard this band. Probably from the rotation at the radio station or from a friend. I totally forgot about this album until yesterday. I pulled it off the shelves and really enjoyed remembering this. This is a great mix of post rock, math rock, and of course great instrumentation. The rhythms are great- time changes, syncopation, and great melodies. They released a second album about 4 years after this one, but I have never heard it. I'll have to check it out.

A New Machine for Living (2000)
This album was released on the Jade Tree label. A turing machine is an abstract device that simulates computer logic and is used to explore the limits of computation. As archaic as their name suggests, the band pushes the limits of rhythm and dynamics to produce something altogether original. This can be difficult when most "math rock" bands utilize finger tapping, chaotic drumming, and time changes as stock within the genre.