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Format: LP
Label & Cat.Number: Deutsche Grammophon 479 6322
Release Year: 2016
Note: his last "autonomous" studio album (being not a film score) is inspired by the "Orpheus & Eurydike" myth by OVID, the wanderer of prohibited zones, between this world and the beyond; again JOHANSSON mesmerizes especially through his ability to "paint" strong atmospheres; 180 gr. pressing with download voucher
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €25.50

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"Der Komponist Jóhann Jóhannsson, Golden Globe-Preisträger sowie für den Oscar, BAFTA und Grammy nominiert, veröffentlicht sein erstes Album für die Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft: es ist eine Meditation über die Schönheit und den künstlerischen Schaffensprozess. Jóhannsson ist eine Galionsfigur in einer dynamisch wachsenden Szene von Komponisten, die sich frei und einfallsreich zwischen Filmmusik, klassischem Minimalismus, Ambient und elektronischer Musik bewegen.

Orphée schildert einen Weg von der Dunkelheit ins Licht, inspiriert durch die verschiedenen Versionen des antiken Orpheus-Mythos, von Ovid bis Cocteau. Die vielschichtige Erzählung über Tod, Wiedergeburt, Wandel und die Kurzlebigkeit der Erinnerung lässt sich auch als Metapher für künstlerische Kreativität deuten.

Orphée bietet eine vielseitige Klangpalette: Es gibt akustische Instrumente solistisch oder im Ensemble kombiniert mit Elektronik und den geheimnisvollen Lauten der »Nummernsender« auf Kurzwelle. Sie ist angelehnt an viele Facetten seiner vorangehenden Werke und bindet Musik für Solocello, Orgel, Streichquartett, Streichorchester und A-cappella-Gesang mit ein." [label info]

"Based loosely on Ovid’s interpretation of the Orpheus myth, the Icelandic composer’s latest work reveals the grandeur of his music outside of scoring films.

Orphée, the latest album by the Icelandic composer and filmmaker Jóhann Jóhannsson is billed as his first studio album in six years since the somber and excellent The Miners’ Hymns**. But during that time Jóhannsson has released eight records—three of which were scores to major films (including Sicario & The Theory of Everything) and the rest music for smaller film projects, one of which Jóhannsson directed himself. But with even The Miners’ Hymns itself serving as a score to a film, the particular criteria for which Jóhannsson deems a record to be a “studio album” as opposed to a “film score” is somewhat unclear. What is clear is that after years of albums on 4AD and small post-classical labels such as Fat Cat’s 130701, in moving to Deutsche Grammophon—the oldest and most significant classical music label left standing—Jóhannsson wants Orphée to be seen as a work of music propped up by nothing but itself and its own deserved grandeur.

Loosely themed around Ovid's version of the Orpheus myth, Orphée’s grandeur is made clear within seconds. Using only a few repeated parts of piano, violin, and some crackling sound treatments, opener “Flight from the City” takes off. It feels like film music in a way that most of Orphée does not; you could easily imagine it playing over credits, or an opening scene, or in a mid-film montage. But the palette, tone, and structure of Orphée vary greatly and much of it embraces a compositional approach akin to ’90s chamber experimentalists the Rachel’s and others in the post-classical mold on 130701 or Erased Tapes. “A Song for Europa” features more of those crackling sound treatments as well as a recurring spectral vocal sample, while the stately “A Deal With Chaos” or “The Radiant City” would be at home on the Rachel’s Music for Egon Schiele.

Apart from “Flight from the City,” the most unforgettable tracks on Orphée are where Jóhannsson adds more experimental textures, particularly in the penultimate diptych of “Good Morning, Midnight” and “Good Night, Day.” In a way, these two tracks play out the climax of the Orpheus myth: The former begins with dreamy slow-waltz strings and burbling sound effects that connote the gait of a person heading toward destiny unknown, before giving way to a close-mic'd solo piano piece that sounds like the ruminative thoughts of man by way of Satie-style impressionism. The latter, “Good Night, Day,” begins with repeated string warnings that plays as a realization of chased dreams lost, with a cello melody serving as an elegiac narrative counterpoint. On each, the blend of early 20th-century modalities and experimental recording approaches make them archetypal post-classical tracks.

Boldest of all is Orphée’s a capella closer “Orphic Hymn,” which features a breathtaking choral vocal performance by Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices of text from Ovid’s The Metamorphoses. Sung vocals are rarely found in Jóhannsson’s work, but the angelic arrangement makes you wish that he had found more opportunities to integrate vocals into the rest of the record. “Orphic Hymn” also brings Jóhannsson back full circle to British post-classical elder statesman Michael Nyman. The piece strongly recalls the longing of “Miserere” from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, a great example of how Nyman’s scores work as independent music woven into a film rather than applied to the surface of scenes.

It’s exciting to hear the freedom of Jóhannsson’s compositions in autonomous music, and with Orphée he’s reasserted himself as not a just an elegiac film score guy. As good as his cinema work has been, the act of telling someone else’s story puts limits on both an artist’s freedom to work and the impact of how they might be received, and Jóhannsson likely isn’t looking to become known as “the Next Thomas Newman.” The voice he uses on Orphée says otherwise, and provides a clear blast attestation that Jóhannsson is among the brightest lights of any member of the loosely grouped post-classical genre. [Pitchfork]

"Sometimes, some records, and I along with them, fall into this first-class trap, this uppermost attic, this top-notch shelf, where this reside, and then I fail to cover them in time. These are records, like this one, that are just too good, and so I blunder on my task to ‘seek them out’ for you, to provide the filtering of all the noise, and then to spread the good ol’ sermon of their beauty. Surely you have found this simply on your own. Of course, you are already a huge fan of Jóhann Jóhannsson, and automatically grab every single record he puts out, including the latest pressed by Deutsche Grammophon. Right? No wonder Orphée appears at the top of HC’s Reader’s Poll Results for best records of 2016. So why even bother covering it, you know? Yet, here I am, unable to resist the urge to give this wonder all the words that it deserves.

Jóhannsson has been pretty busy these past few years, working mostly on film scores and soundtracks. Even his last studio album, The Miners’ Hymns (130701, 2011) was a soundtrack of sorts. In fact, whether they were imaginary scores, like the one for Fordlandia (4AD, 2008) and IBM 1401, A User’s Manual (4AD, 2006), or real ones for independent films, like Copenhagen Dreams (NTOV, 2012) and McCanick (Milan, 2014), or full-blown Hollywood productions, like Prisoners OST (WaterTower Music, 2013), The Theory Of Everything OST (Blacklot, 2014) and, most recently, Arrival OST (Deutsche Grammophon, 2016), it’s easy to make a statement that Jóhannsson’s modern classical productions are indeed cinematic in nature. Painting these imaginary landscapes with his music is in his soul… it’s what he does.

Orphée, of course, is no exception. From the very first note and subsequent chord progression, we hear the music of Jóhannsson at his best. Full strings are at the center of the stage, dancing the slow waltz in a haze of melancholy, minor heartbreak, and remorse. Baroque and classical elements appear throughout the album, in the form of a pipe organ, symphonic themes, and orchestral accompaniment (AIR Lyndhurst String Orchestra). The work is concluded with the Theatre of Voices singing the lines from Ovid. The minimal pieces are complemented by fundamental electronic treatments, minor field recordings, and sounds of shortwave radio from the “numbers stations”. The atmospherics are resplendent with space and texture, structurally stitched in all the critical thematic places, driven forth by a coherent motif, carried further by the forlorn piano or the anguished cello at its heart (with Clarice Jensen of ACME and Hildur Guðnadóttir).

Orphée traces a path from darkness into light, inspired by the various re-tellings of the ancient tale of the poet Orpheus, from Ovid’s to Jean Cocteau’s. A many-layered story about death, rebirth, change and the ephemeral nature of memory, the myth can also be read as a metaphor for artistic creation, dealing with the elusive nature of beauty and its relationship to the artist, as well as the idea that art is created through transgression – by the poet defying the gods who have forbidden him to turn back towards his beloved as he leaves the Underworld.

Unlike Jóhannsson’s previous albums, Orphée did not start out with a conceptual narrative. Yet, at the root of the album is a theme of change that Jóhannsson has been dealing with in the last six years. He has left Copenhagen to build a new life in Berlin, absorbing the city with all of its new offerings, relationships, and inspirations. “Perhaps this is one of the reasons I was drawn to the Orpheus myth, which is fundamentally about change, mutability, death, rebirth, the elusive nature of beauty and its sometimes thorny relation to the artist,” explains Jóhann. “This album, my first solo record for six years, is an oblique reflection on personal change.” We’re all familiar with all this change and our struggle and final acceptance of some endings and new beginnings. Perhaps these sounds will accompany your journeys. A true modern classical composition which will surely withstand the test of time." [Headphone Commute]