On Feb. 9, Icelandic experimental composer Jóhann Jóhannsson was found dead in his Berlin apartment. He was 48. Jóhannsson leaves behind a deep catalog of acclaimed solo albums and soundtracks (including his Academy Award-nominated scores for Sicario and The Theory of Everything). to help you navigate his vast musical universe, we’ve asked Glasgow-based composer Richard Luke to select 10 essential pieces.
“These songs are all compelling but diverse in their ability to either sweep you away in a dream or zone you into something specific. Most of all for me, Jóhann’s sense of melody had a lush darkness that I’m drawn to, particularly in ‘The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky’s Turned Black.’ Music that can affect a grave sadness with a sense of hope, or give a happy sentiment a sense of melancholy and nostalgia——that, to me, is like life: bittersweet. These qualities came easily to Jóhann and he was comfortable and generous with his powers. This gave his scores the simple ability to make movies better, more effective, more intense, more of whatever it is they were trying to be——and then something of himself). His solo work is even more intriguing——see: ‘Part 1/ IBM 1401 Processing Unit’ and ‘Flight From the City’——in the way he pushed the form with analogue tape, signal processing, effects, noises… he could make the normal sound haunting and weird, and the weird sound perfectly normal. This playlist celebrates some of my favorites from an exceptional back-catalogue. I’m sorry he’s gone——not least because it felt like even more was just around the corner.”——Richard Luke