Jóhann Jóhannsson - Orphée

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The late Jóhann Jóhannsson transformed Icelandic music. His haunting sound has graced everything from television and cinema, both in Scandinavia and the world at large, culminating in a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination for his score of ‘The Theory Of Everything’. With an oeuvre as vast and glorious as Jóhann’s, it's difficult to get started exploring hos work. We'd recommend his solo album 'Orphée', which was described by Rolling Stone as containing “breathtaking washes of melancholy, swoon, nostalgia and mystery”.

Here's an excerpt from an interview we took with Jóhann around the album: 

His eighth solo album, ‘Orphée’, is a series of quiet, mournful pieces that spiral upwards seemingly endlessly. It developed differently from his usual method of establishing a foundational concept early on.

“This time, I just started writing music,” Jóhann says. “I based it around an endless set of variations, around a chord progression that feels like it’s forever flowing upwards. The theme recurs throughout the record, and is present in some form in many of the pieces. Everything on the record grew from that. It’s not always apparent—sometimes you don’t hear the origin any more—but they’re offshoots that organically grew from the same plant.”

The record still developed a wider theme, gleaned from the worlds of mythology, literature and film. “One of the variations lent itself to vocals, so I decided to do a choir piece with Theatre of Voices,” he explains. “I tend to use existing text—I don’t really write. I tend to go for old poems. I found a section of Ovid’s Metamorphosis where he retells the story of Orpheus. Maybe because of this sense of the music flowing upward, that oft-retold story became the thread.”