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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Jóhann JÓHANNSSON
Englabörn

Odi et Amo
Englabörn
Jói & Karen
Þetta gerist á bestu bæjum
Sálfræðingur
"Ég sleppi þér aldrei"
Sálfræðingur deyr
Bað
"Ég heyrði allt án þess aðhlusta"
Karen býr til engil
Englabörn - tilbrigði
"Ég átti Gráa æsku"
Krókódíll
"Ef ég hefði aldrei..."
...eing og venjulegt fólk
Odi et Amo - bis

Jóhann Jóhannsson, piano, glockenspiel, harmonium, organ & electronics.
Eþos String Quartet
Mathías M.D. Hemstock, percussion
Recorded at Fríkirkjan and NT&V, August 2001.
Originally written for the stage play by Hávar Sigurjónsson.
(released 2002)
TOUCH TO:52 [48.05]


AVAILABILITY

Obtainable direct from www.touch.demon.co.uk

The back catalogue of the visionary Touch label, for those not familiar with it, represents a broad church, ranging from improv giant Evan Parker, via the Nordic ambient of Biosphere and guitar acoustics of founder member of Genesis Antony Phillips, to ex-Cabaret Voltaire member and BBC wildlife recordist Chris Watson. Couple this with Mike Harding's and Jon Wozencroft's impeccable design tastes and comparisons with ECM are, to these eyes and ears, not far wide of the mark (maybe with a bit of Antony H. Wilson's original Factory thrown in!). Jóhann Jóhannsson's Englabörn is both typical, in its eclecticism, and atypical, in its immediacy, of the label's output. It is also a worthy successor to Touch's previous venture into Icelandic soundtrack music, Hilmar Örn Hilmarrsson's magnificent Children of Nature.

The disc begins and ends with its only vocal pieces, computerised/vocoded realisations of words, Odi et amo, written by Roman poet Catullus. What comes between is very much in keeping with this. The music is plaintive, highly melodic and deeply affecting. In Sálfræðingur it really takes flight rhythmically, with muted hunting horns in attendance, whereas Bað must be the sound of icicles melting in Spring. Englabörn - tilbrigði, in contrast, could be the finest film score short Michael Tippett never wrote. The Eþos String Quartet are the constant presence in this recording and they interact completely organically with the composer and gifted percussionist Mathías M.D. Hemstock. In "Ég átti Gráa æsku", the musical backdrop is reminiscent of Alan Stivell's essential Au-delà des Mots and even Howard Shore's Breakdown of the Fellowship (Lord of the Rings OST)!

Although this recording may appear short on time, it is a supremely distilled offering and contains more of value than many discs almost twice the length. If you like the music of Jan Garbarek, cellist David Darling, Arvo Pärt's more intimate moments, Terry Riley, Roger Eno (especially Between Tides) etc. then you will love this record. A work of modest and thoughtful beauty, like the nation that spawned it; though the vitriolic potency of the compatriot music of, say, Jon Leifs, might suggest otherwise it is hard not to relate this humility to the awe experienced in respect of the primal, natural setting of its genesis. If you have ever been to the Icelandic interior, you will know exactly what I mean, if not then read the liner notes by Manfred Eicher for Garbarek's Officium (the next best thing).

Jóhann Jóhannsson is another great discovery for Touch and living proof that there is a third stream operating within contemporary composition which eschews both the bland and the wilfully uninviting. Superb.


Neil Horner



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