Sunday, 9 November 2008

Johann Johannsson - Fordlandia (4AD 2008)

Listening to this album raises an important point about genres and classifying music into tiny boxes with little labels and streamlining it into ways that make it easier for people to judge whether they will like it without even listening to it. Depsite being put out on the experimental 4AD label, one that has given us Pixies, this is an album built out of strings and is wordless. Is it modern classical music? Is it film soundtrack because of its scope vision and visual impact? To give you my own opinion as to its classification might turn you off listening to this immense ambitious piece of work, so can we agree, it's just music, okay?

Slow, haunting and intimate, this quiet and instrumental album is the second part in Johannsson's trilogy about the American industrial complex. Like Sufjan Stevens, Johannsson is concerned with America and wants to celebrate its good parts as well as discuss its overkill with the rest of the world, its need to be in everyone's faces. The elegaic beauty of the orchestra, from each muttered flute to the dreamy strings and the delicate sprinkles of electronica make this a challenging listen, bursting with subtlety and places to get lost in as the music tends to start slowly and quietly and build into an intense tumult of sombre tensions, quietly descending back down to earth after the machine-shattering crescendos that peak at the songs' climaxes. This is a personal response to teachnology and its obvious obsolensence, inspired by Johannsson's father's work in computer technology. It is soaring and intimate in equal measure, heartbeats away from a sobbing climax. It moves delicately, with the use of swelling strings and piercing vibrations, all resulting in a fascinating and utterly absorbing web of ideas and ambitions.


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