Jóhann Jóhannsson with Hildur Guðnadóttir and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe: End Of Summer (CD+DVD, Sonic Pieces, December 2015)

This release was pretty exciting to me, given my feelings about all the protagonists: Jóhann Jóhannsson’s The Miners’ Hymns was one of my albums of 2011, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Leyfðu Ljósinu was one of my albums of 2012, and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s FRKWYS collaboration with Ariel Kalma, We Know Each Other Somehow, is bound to be on the shortlist for this year. Let’s talk about the music first. Guðnadóttir is crediting with cello and voice, Lowe with synths and voice, and Jóhannsson with electronics. (Those voice credits are more reason for me to get excited, since the distinctive vocal work was a big part of the attraction of both Leyfðu Ljósinu and We Know Each Other Somehow.) The first two of the four tracks focus mostly on the cello: Part 1 is a straight-up drone work with all the business happening in the harmonics, Part 2 a little more melodic while still suitably glacial, and obviously I lapped this up. The second two focus mostly on the vocals: Part 3 leads out with Lowe’s pleasingly strange nasal chanting, before being lifted by purer tones provided (I think) by Guðnadóttir, while Part 4 goes full transcendental with layered harmonics from Guðnadóttir which remind me a little of the bits of Ligeti used in the trippy end section of 2001, with Lowe adding extra richness later on. I was pretty much bound to say this, but this is a truly wondrous 25 minutes of music.

This is the soundtrack to Jóhannsson’s 30-minute movie, which is on the DVD here. This is filmed in Antarctica, at (of course) the end of summer, on a “very slow 35mm film stock — used in the old days for filming title cards — which was cut down to super 8 format”. (He says that this film no longer exists, but he doesn’t say what it is: enquiring geeks want to know!) It consists of long, stationary shots of wildlife, icebergs, etc. The results are a naturally lo-fi, and mostly very high contrast, giving the whole thing a strangely otherworldly appearance. The black and white of the penguins in long-shot turns into a kind of abstract art, while the seaweed on the rocks under the seals looks decidedly alien. It’s not exactly revolutionary, but it’s pretty and interesting and goes well with the music.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Ambient / Drone.

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