Friday, November 7, 2008

Johann Johannsson - Fordlandia

Johann Johannsson
(11.2008, 4AD)
Verdict = Magnificent in every sense

On Fordlandia, Johannsson combines the instant accessibility of Englaborn with the massively affecting heft of Virugelu Forsetar into a compelling whole. Compounding all his strengths, Johannsson has created something that is immediately engrossing and gorgeously magnetic. The album opener and namesake, “Fordlandia,” is a near 14 minute stand-alone track that shamelessly dives into a viscerally uplifting major chord progression that is so redeeming that it hinges on silliness. Yet dismissing the track on that basis is an easy way to lose out. Anyone can be a jerk, however, to embrace such unabashed beauty in all its cinematic drama, as Johannsson has done here, takes guts. I think the track is amazing myself and is a dynamic moment in relation to the rest of the album because “Fordlandia” feels like the track that you play at the end of the movie when the protagonist marries her man. However, Johannsson leads off with this track before diving into similarly beautiful, but undoubtedly gloomier territory. It’s as if the story starts at some triumphant finale only to reveal things may not have ended up so happily ever after. In fact things turn awry almost immediately when the melodies turn from mischievous to sorrowful to menacing with each successive track. I would continue a description track for track, but for some reason I feel like I would be spoiling the ending. Johannsson’s use of woodwinds and pulsing electronics fit perfectly in the minor key transformation, adding characters to the plot and making Fordlandia Johannsson’s most lyrical album to date. We’ve followed our fair share of neo classical albums on FG this year, but while everyone else seems content to string together a series of individual-yet-similar tracks Johannsson has dreamed up something of a symphonic masterpiece. At moments it touches the visceral intensity of Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for Requiem For A Dream at others it soars into the cloudlike hymnals of an angelic quality (chorals included). The scope of the album as a whole is unmatched not only on the current indie classical landscape but on the landscape of modern music as a whole. Johannsson has set a new standard for neo classical composers that will hopefully be embraced and challenged in the years to come.

-Mr. Thistle

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