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Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Last Album, Englabörn & Variations, is Available Now in Digital Format

For immediate release

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Last Album, Englabörn & Variations, is Available Now in Digital Format

Physical Album to be Released April 6

23 March 2018 (Toronto, ON) - Sixteen years after his debut album and shortly before his untimely passing on February 9, 2018, Jóhann Jóhannsson had completed a new album: Englabörn & Variations. The poignant remastered reissue of his debut album, Englabörn, with the additional album of reworkings, Variations, unveil fresh perspectives of the original release. As Jóhannsson had planned, and with the support of his family, Englabörn & Variations is available on all digital platforms now and will be released on physical copies April 6 via Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Canada, the country’s leading music company.

With this now seeming like a parting gift, he had reinterpreted his own pieces with special features by Francesco Donadello, Theatre of Voices, and fellow DG artist Víkingur Ólafsson. Jóhannson also invited other friends and artists he admired to do their own interpretations: Hildur Guðnadóttir, Ryūichi Sakamoto, Alex Somers, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, and Paul Corley each contributed a rework.

The late Jóhannsson was already a familiar face within the Reykjavik music scene when his compatriot Hávar Sigurjónsson approached him to compose for Englabörn, his latest play. The musician had played in countless guitar bands since the mid-1980s, as well as collaborating with other like-minded souls. Englabörn sounded like little anyone had ever heard. A peaceful, graceful intermingling of style, form, and content, it was sometimes agonizingly desolate, sometimes gloriously uplifting, but never less than astonishing.

Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine a world without music like Jóhannsson’s. Alongside composers like Max Richter, he helped blur the lines between classical and electronic music, giving birth inadvertently to a genre now known as ‘post-’ or ‘neo-classical’. Over the years that followed, he composed some of the greatest film scores of the contemporary age, and others since – including Ólafur Arnalds and A Winged Victory For The Sullen – have joined him in bringing this new, strangely indefinable sound into the mainstream. Back then, however, this delicate mesh of digital and analogue, of traditional and radical, of old and new, was considered exceptional, in every sense of the word. Moreover, it displayed everything that would set Jóhannsson’s work apart, even if it took time for the world to recognize how the simplicity of its beauty matched the purity of his premise. But catch up they eventually would.

Englabörn – the album – isn’t the original score to Sigurjónsson’s play. Instead, it blossomed into a free-standing album with its sixteen sublime miniatures steeped in austere melodic elegance and profound melancholy. “The music took on a life of its own,” Jóhannsson recalled during preparations for the reissue. “It wasn’t intended to be my first album as a solo artist. Like a fine example of Taoist serendipity and ‘doing without doing’, this material simply demanded to exist as a work in its own right. And, as someone who embraces chance and letting go, and who tries to listen to what the music I compose wants to be rather than what I want it to be, I was happy to oblige and spend the time required to make it into its own independent work.”

Revisiting Englabörn offered Jóhannsson the chance to survey fifteen years of artistic and personal development, and the Variations album, he believed, connected his current creative interests to the album that launched his career. It no doubt pleased Jóhannsson to see old and new lining up alongside one another, and in a sense that makes Englabörn & Variations as appropriate a release as one might imagine within these distressing circumstances. But there’s something especially poignant in how the album that started his solo career has ended up being the one that caps it. Despite the fact no one ever envisioned it thus, it represents a suitably serene resolution to the conflict that his music so often addressed – Odi et Amo, Alpha et Omega ­– as though the circle of life was now complete. Like Catullus before him, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work managed not only to confront life’s most irreconcilable forces, but also to embody them. As he himself said not long before he left us, “Simplicity is hard,” and yet he made it seem so easy. That was never more so than on Englabörn.

By the time Jóhann Jóhannsson left us so horribly prematurely on February 9, 2018, at the age of only 48, sixteen years after Englabörn’s release, he’d already bequeathed the world some of its finest music in years. Since the early 2000s, he’d written and recorded prolifically, leaving behind eight studio albums – one a collaboration with Hildur Guðnadóttir & Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – as well as a wealth of film scores. For these he received countless prizes and nominations, among them were Oscar® and a BAFTA nominated scores for Dennis Villeneuve’s Sicario and James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything. The latter also won him a 2015 Golden Globe, as well as a Grammy nomination. His score for Arrival, furthermore, earned him BAFTA, Golden Globe and Grammy nominations. Anyone, though, who’d listened to his debut album, Englabörn, back in 2002 would have contended that this was inevitable. The man always had a gift.


© Jónatan Grétarsson / DG


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Jóhann Jóhannsson - Englabörn

1.     Odi et Amo

2.     Englabörn

3.     Jói & Karen

4.     Þetta gerist á bestu bæjum

5.     Sálfræðingur

6.     “Ég sleppi þér aldrei”

7.     Sálfræðingur deyr

8.     Bað

9.     “Ég heyrði allt án þess að hlusta”

10.  Karen býr til engil

11.  Englabörn – tilbrigði

12.  “Ég átti gráa æsku”

13.  Krókódíll

14.  “Ef ég hefði aldrei…”

15.  … eins og venjulegt fólk

16.  Odi et Amo – bis




Jóhann Jóhannsson - Variations


1.     “Ég heyrði allt án þess að hlusta”

A Winged Victory for the Sullen rework

2.     Odi et Amo

Jóhannsson/Donadello rework

3.     Englabörn

Víkingur Ólafsson piano version

4.     Jói & Karen

Ryuichi Sakamoto rework

5.     Holy Thursday (“Ég heyrði allt án þess að hlusta”)

6.     Theatre of Voices version

7.     Englabörn

Viktor Orri Árnason rework

8.     Odi et Amo – bis

Alex Somers rework

9.     Sálfræðingur deyr

Hildur Guðnadóttir rework

10.  Odi et Amo – bis

Jóhannsson/Donadello rework

11.  … eins og venjulegt fólk

Paul Corley rework

12.  Odi et Amo

Theatre of Voices version