Album Reviews

Johann Johannsson – Orpheé – Album Review


Johann Johannsson – Orpheé – Album Review by Killian Laher

Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson is one of the finest exponents of what is sometimes referred to as ‘modern classical’. Less accessible than some contemporaries such as Max Richter, of late his work has been focused on soundtracks and specific projects. Orpheé is his first stand-alone work for seven years and it opens with the glacial piano drift of Flight from the City, as fine a six and a half minutes as there is in Johannsson’s back catalogue. Not a lot happens in the piece, but it softly and subtly gets under your skin. A Song for Europa introduces the American Contemporary Music Ensemble and from here on they blend seamlessly with Johannsson’s own efforts. The cellos that introduce A Deal with Chaos are one of many really fine moments on this album.

It’s a very chilled out collection by Johannsson’s standards, what electronics there are do not take any degree of prominence, meaning Orpheé very much belongs to the ‘classical’ rather than the ‘electronica’ genre. Only the tail end of Fragment II has any sense of something non-traditional bubbling under the surface. Final track Orphic Hymn is a bit of a departure, featuring a choir in the shape of Theatre of Voices.

One of the foremost composers working in contemporary music, Johann Johannsson’s latest album does not represent any great departure, but it’s as fine a work as exists in his 15 years or so of recorded music.

Track List:

1. Flight from the City
2. A Song for Europa
3. The Drowned World
4. A Deal with Chaos
5. A Pile of Dust
6. A Sparrow Alighted upon Our Shoulder
7. Fragment I
8. By the Roes, and by the Hinds of the Field
9. The Radiant City
10. Fragment II
11. The Burning Mountain
12. De Luce et Umbra
13. Good Morning, Midnight
14. Good Night, Day
15. Orphic Hymn


Orpheé Trailer:



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