Jóhann Jóhannsson Fordlandia

Iceland is alive with the sound of string composers of late. Hildur Guðnadóttir, Ólafur Arnalds and Amiina have all released lovely albums celebrating the pomp and melancholic circumstance of the North. Note for note though, Jóhann Jóhannsson manages to hover a few centimetres above them all. Fordlandia, his second release for 4AD, takes its title from a large tract of land in Brazil purchased by Henry Ford during the ’20s to harvest cheaper rubber. It was an experiment that was fraught with troubles. Jóhannsson turns his mastery of slow thematic evolution to the task of creating a musical backdrop that moves from bombast to subtle deflation. "The Rocket Builder” is another piece built on an insistent clockwork piano figure and a push of strings set against an electronic doppelganger of percussion. When these elements quietly trade spaces at the halfway mark the mood eerily turns from hopefully to worry-filled. Jóhannsson’s choice to examine themes of big dreams/bad outcomes feeds into our North American desire for the rags-to-riches-to-rags story retold. To have it presented without Oscar-fuelled mugging is a welcome relief. (4AD)