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  • Writer's picturePaul Boylson

Jóhann Jóhannsson ~ IBM 1401, A User’s Manual

Much as the land that bore witness to his birth some 49 years ago, the celebrated Maestro Johansson’s cold, dark, and distant compositions instantly conjure the ancient deserts and windswept glaciers so indicative of his native Iceland. Even his late film scores (sadly, he departed this mortal coil earlier this very year) were heavily steeped in such similar tones, lending considerable credence to such films as The Theory Of Everything (2016) and the highly anticipated Arrival two years previous.

Though much of his solo outings bespeak a similar characteristic, repeated listens might often reveal, albeit discreetly, the oddly occasional break in those proverbial grey clouds, allowing a major tonic triad or two to pierce the gathering gloom like sweet manna from heaven. With IBM 1401; A User’s Manual (4AD, 2006) this tradition continues with marvelous aplomb, while its inspiration (a recording of an IBM mainframe computer which Jóhann's father, Jóhann Gunnarsson, made on a reel-to-reel tape machine more than 30 years ago) breathes a warm, supple breath into the otherwise chilly festivities.

Like ALL composers of good craft and cunning, Johansson has long since mastered the finer art of coaxing the listener down the less trodden path to victory, knowing full well the finer fruits and fragrances awaiting us at the conclusion of each winding lane and byway. Just remember to pack your favorite parka along for the ride, as the forecast for tonight still blows cold, dark, and distant....

....just the way we LOVE it.

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