thu 25/07/2024

CD: Jóhann Jóhannsson - Orphée | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jóhann Jóhannsson - Orphée

CD: Jóhann Jóhannsson - Orphée

Powerful non-soundtrack suite which restates the Icelandic composer’s identity

Jóhann Jóhannsson's 'Orphée': imbued with an authority which demands instant attention

Despite culminating with “Orphic Hymn”, a musical setting of Ovid’s text, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Orphée is not a literal interpretation of the Orpheus myth. Instead, the album uses retellings of the story – quoting the press release – to inspire “a meditation on beauty and the process of creation.” The result is a mutable series of 14 instrumental pieces preceding “Orphic Hymn” which describe the entire arc of Jóhannsson’s artistic character.

Recognisably Jóhannsson’s work, Orphée – with its strikingly similar cover image to the 2010 ...And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness album by fellow Icelander Ólafur Arnalds – is stylistically varied but united by an overarching power: one Jóhannsson has had throughout, but was especially brought to bear during his time with the metal band Ham and the intense Apparat Organ Quintet. Each of the new album’s 15 pieces is imbued with an authority which demands instant attention. Indeed, considering Jóhannsson’s fêted soundtrack music, anything here would be a tough fit in a cinematic context as the visual imagery would be overwhelmed. Although Orphée has the ebb and flow of a suite, head to the short “Fragment II” (the 10th track) for an instant summary of the album’s splendour.

Orphée is Jóhannsson’s first album since 2009’s And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees that is neither a commission or tied to visuals. It’s composed and recorded on its own terms. Amongst other works between And in the Endless Pause… and Orphée, Jóhannsson has completed The Miners' Hymns, and the soundtracks to The Theory of Everything and Sicario. His music for the films Arrival and The Mercy will be heard soon. He’s prolific but has not been working solely to a wholly self-determined agenda. With the robust Orphée, he has returned to focussing on who he is. More of this please.

‘Orphée’ is stylistically varied but united by an overarching power


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters