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Album Review

On his 2005 album, Jóhann Jóhannsson continued his style-scrambling mix of impulses with the gusto evident on earlier work. The opening "Banlol Northursins" crosses everything from winsome lo-fi organ pop to space rock zone to slow and steady funk breaks and more, with an aesthetic that can best be summed up as beholden to none of these styles in particular. It makes even more sense as a result that the immediately following song, "10 Rokkstig," is a sharp, peppy electro-rock number that should be concluding a triumphant teen dramedy epic in space. The album's flow of often short, discrete songs further emphasizes a sense of the soundtrack-for-the-unfilmed movie, mood setters that work all over the map in the best of ways. There's elegant piano-led moodiness like "Já, Hemmi Minn" and "Ónefnt" that Wong Kar-Wai might kill for (especially when the latter breaks into a slow waltz groove). Meantime, songs like "Eíripídes, Og Neðtipídel," with its brawling drum punch, and deep bass growls against softer tones and bells toward the end add a peppy tinge to the tune. There's a revisiting of sounds as the album continues, but sometimes in unexpected ways — if "Ljósrit" is the first song over again, it's a shorter and even moodier version. Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about Dis is how clearly Jóhannsson embraces and then reuses so many elements of what was labeled as glitch or experimental techno for his own particular ends. It would be a disservice to say he adds heart to such music, but the more immediate embrace of sonic melancholia and sweetness on songs like "Pynnkudagur" — yet another roll-the-credits song of the highest quality — as piano, subharmonics, soft electronic melodies, and distant voices combine, can't be denied.

Biography

Born: 1969

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Jóhann Jóhannsson is one of Iceland's most prolifically creative musicians, as a solo artist as well as a 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 applies to his other projects. Apparat Organ Quartet, with music described as "machine rock & roll," consist of four keyboardists...
Full Bio
Dis, Jóhann Jóhannsson
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