Monday, November 7, 2016

review: jóhann jóhannsson - orphée

Hello, all. I'm very pleased to be given the opportunity to put my thoughts down on a release that is equal parts inspiring and beautiful, while wrapped in an elegance that displays the highest degree of musical integrity. JÓHANN JÓHANNSSON is an Icelandic composer that has blessed us with a vibrantly organic journey that combines thoughtful melodies intertwined with a delicate minimal approach to classical music. Jóhann is a Grammy nominated and Golden Globe winning artist that has fine tuned his sense of melody and harmonic space through his film work and live performances. Much respect to an artist that is not living in the vacuum of a sterile studio environment, but rather embraces the challenges of communicating their vision in the world of live performance. His TOURING SCHEDULE can attest to his dedication of realizing the importance of performing for an audience and being sensitive to their interpretations. 

Upon my very initial impression of ORPHÉE, I was immediately taken in by the artwork. There is something very honest about the cover art that draws me in, and emanates a warmth of nostalgia. The cover of an album is a painstakingly difficult (but rewarding) task, as any listener will attach imagery to music. The artwork represents a very minimal and colorless world, but works in a sense that is like a musical well that you fall into with a curiosity of what's on the other side. While it may seem gritty and unfinished, it is anything but. It is the present that is wrapped in plain paper that always makes you realize that so much thought was put into the underlying and undiscovered gold that was within. With so many artist caught up into overproducing artwork, it is very refreshing to see an album cover that stands out like a diamond in the rough. 

Jóhann's strength in in this release is one of building effective towers of sound using very simple means. Rather than to overwhelm the listener with a barrage of information and sound, we are instead drawn in to the allure of every developing theme. Every moment is a chorale, every breath is a symphony, and every whisper is a journey into a world of blooming beauty. Every song is effectively matures with an intensity that is never overbearing or without merit. Only the best of the best post-classical composers have that ability.

When spinning this music, right away you can feel the calm wind of developing melodic structures. There is nothing frantic about the delivery of the music here. It is as it should be in that sense. Orphée is conceptual, and the literal meaning of the narrative lends itself to the actual reasons veiled within the music. In the original story of the mythical Greek musician/poet, Orpheus, whose ability to charm all things living and non-living with his music, leads to him to retrieving his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld. For Jóhann, this represented the life changes of leaving his birth country for another, and the death and rebirth of relationships. With this in mind, we attend the mind of an ever-shifting journey that balance dark and light themes that complement one another while setting up the scene for every impending counterbalance.

For fans of post-classical composers that are not afraid of experimentation (number station samples in meaningful classical passages, oh my!), I urge you to search this music out and add it to your collection. Huge thanks to 9PR for allowing me to give my thoughts on this achingly beautiful release that will be one of the best releases of 2016. Pay Jóhann a visit on his FACEBOOK page, and keep abreast of his ventures on TWITTER. Peace.


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