Johann Johannsson

An American magnate builds a doomed utopia in the depths of the Brazilian rainforest. A Victorian poetess laments the death of Pan. A pagan rocket scientist blows himself up in his Californian garage. A crippled German physicist draws up the equations which could make faster than light travel possible, unseen by the rest of the world.

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s spellbinding new album FORDLANDIA draws these tantalizing threads together, weaving a musical tapestry of hypnotic richness and surprising emotional depth.

Jóhannsson makes stately, slow-building and hauntingly melodic music – frequently combining electronic processing with classical orchestrations - that has been bewitching listeners for the last few years. His first two solo records – Englabörn (2002), written for string quartet, percussion and electronics, and Virthulegu Forsetar (2004), written for brass ensemble, drones and percussion – were released by the singular British independent Touch label.

Englabörn was derived from music that Jóhann wrote for an Icelandic play using string quartet, piano, organ, glockenspiel and percussion. These elements were processed and manipulated, adding delicate electronic accents to the otherwise entirely acoustic recordings. Virthulegu Forsetar was one hour-long piece for eleven brass players, percussion, electronics, organs and piano. It shares Englabörn’s quiet, elegiac beauty, but replaces the brevity of the first album’s exquisite miniatures with an extended sweep of sound that reveals a long, slow process of evolution.

Jóhann is involved in many different projects in his native Iceland, including the all-analogue Apparat Organ Quartet and Kitchen Motors, the art organisation/think tank/record label which specialises in instigating collaborations and art projects across diverse artforms.

Jóhann’s first release for 4AD, IBM 1401, A User’s Manual (2006) involved a sixty-piece string orchestra recorded at Prague’s legendary Barrandov sound stage and incorporated electronics and vintage reel-to-reel recordings of a 1960s IBM 1401 mainframe computer and its accompanying instruction manual.

Following IBM 1401, A User’s Manual, Fordlândia is the second in a proposed trilogy based on technology and iconic American brand names. Whereas IBM 1401, A User’s Manual was a personal response to technology and its inevitable obsolescence inspired by his father’s work with mainframe computers in Iceland, Fordlândia springs out of a far more diffuse set of influences. It brings together the soaring grandeur of its predecessor – some sections were recorded with the same orchestra in Prague – and the plangent intimacy of Englabörn, moving between heady, melting cadences and crystalline motifs with gorgeous, dreamlike logic.

In short, Fordlândia is Jóhann Jóhannsson’s most complete and beautiful piece of music to date, a fascinating, immersive and deeply rewarding web of ideas and melodies, which is sure to win him a legion of new listeners.

“The record ends on a redemptive note, a robotic vocal intoning a heartbreaking little tune over a more muted backing, which then climbs to a vast climax that alternates wailing strings with the sound of malfunctioning machinery. It’s a poerful finish to a record that begins equally beautifully” - Pitchfork
“Masterpiece” - Uncut
“A symphony of astonishing drama and exquisite lyricism. 5/5.” - Irish Times
"Jóhann Jóhannsson has proved he is out there on his own” - Boomkat