16 Songs, 55 Minutes


Ratings and Reviews

4.9 out of 5
25 Ratings
25 Ratings
Headphone Commute

Headphone Commute Review

When I first heard Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s soundtrack to Prisoners, I forgot that I have heard it once before. I was sitting in a theater in Seattle, watching this thriller by Denis Villeneuve about an abduction of two young girls. The bleak environment surrounding the sorrow, dread and a peculiar discomfort was punctuated by the orchestral strings transcending tension, angst and heartache. The atmosphere of the music was haunting and even frightening at times. The numerous variations on a prevalent melody were wrought with worry, turmoil and suspense. The textured ambiance took me to a place that I’ve attempted to escape. Except there was no place to run, the sonic storm was moving fast and soon it was upon me. It was only after the film ended that I spied Jóhannsson’s surname in the credits. Ah, but of course! A few weeks prior, this Icelandic composer of neo-classical, electronic, and cinematic music sent me a promo copy of his latest work. In my rushed preparation for a week-long immersion in Seattle’s Decibel Festival, I dropped the files on my iPhone, and listened to the music on my flight to the West Coast. So once the melody broke down and the instruments have wept, back in that theatre in Seattle, I have felt that melancholic touch. And I have felt at home again… In the past decade, besides his critically acclaimed full length releases on labels such as Touch, 4AD and FatCat, Jóhannsson has composed numerous scores for feature films and stage works. The soundtrack to Prisoners is available from WaterTower Music on CD, and via Jóhannsson’s own label, Kitchen Motors, on vinyl.

no name at all


Goes great with the movie, but also stands by itself as another great set of tracks from Johann. He gets better as time moves forward.



An amazing score for a fantastic film. It compliments the atmosphere of the movie immensely. 10/10.

About Jóhann Jóhannsson

Composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Jóhann Jóhannsson was one of Iceland's most prolifically creative musicians, as a solo artist as well as part of the Kitchen Motors label and collective (which also includes members of Sigur Rós, Múm, and Slowblow) and also Apparat Organ Quartet. Kitchen Motors' aesthetic, which focuses on largely improvised and electronic music, also applied to his other projects. Apparat Organ Quartet, with music described as "machine rock & roll," consists of four keyboardists who play discarded vintage instruments that they refurbish and a drummer. Jóhannsson's work on his own ranged from delicate laptop pop to sound art installations in galleries to collaborations with Barry Adamson, the Hafler Trio, and Pan Sonic. His first solo album, 2002's Englabörn, paired a string quartet with percussion, keyboards, and electronics in a series of bittersweet miniatures, while 2004's Virthulegu Forsetar was a much more expansive work scored for brass, organ, keyboards, and electronics that was composed for and recorded in Reykjavik's Hallgrimskirkja Church. The British label Touch released both of these albums, but 2005's Dis was issued by Worker's Institute.

For 2006's IBM 1401, A User's Manual, Jóhannsson moved to 4AD. One of Jóhannsson's most ambitious projects, it was inspired by the first computer brought to Iceland in 1964 and based on a recording of an IBM computer that his father made on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. A string quartet version of the work was performed as the accompaniment to a dance piece by choreographer Erna Omarsdórtir at the 2002 Dansem Festival. The recorded version of IBM 1401, A User's Manual incorporated vocalizing, electronics, and a 60-piece orchestra along with the original recordings of the IBM computer. Released in 2008, Fordlandia, inspired in part by Henry Ford's failed rubber plant in Brazil, was the second part of a planned trilogy about technology and iconic American brands. Jóhannsson toured the U.S. in summer 2009, and the soundtrack he composed for the animated film Varmints was sold as And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees, a limited-edition, tour-only release. The album was given a wider release the following year on Type.

Two years later, Jóhannsson's music for Bill Morrison's documentary The Miner's Hymns arrived on FatCat; during the early and mid-2010s, he composed the scores to many films, including 2012's Copenhagen Dreams, 2013's Prisoners, 2014's The Theory of Everything (which won him a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Original Score), and 2015's Denis Villeneuve-directed Sicario, which also earned a Best Original Score nomination. In 2016, Jóhannsson's collaborative score with Hildur Gudnadóttir for the BBC TV series Trapped won the Best Score award at that year's Edda Awards in his native Iceland; that year, the composer also signed with Deutsche Grammophon to release some of his non-score projects. The first of these was Orphée, his first solo studio album in six years. Inspired by several versions of the Orpheus myth -- including French director Jean Cocteau's film -- as well as Jóhannsson's move to Berlin, Orphée arrived in September 2016. His film music was still a priority, with his score to Villeneuve's sci-fi thriller Arrival released in late 2016. Jóhannsson died in Berlin in February 2018; he was 48 years old. He had recently supplied the score for director James Marsh's sailing drama The Mercy, which had been released in England and Ireland the week prior to his death, and had not yet reached theaters in the United States. ~ Heather Phares

Reykjavik, Iceland
September 19, 1969




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