Jóhann Jóhannsson: And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees
Type Recordings

Don't be misled by Jóhann Jóhannsson's status as an ‘electronic' composer: And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees is soundtrack music to the fullest degree, notwithstanding its subtle integration of electronic elements (it was, in fact, composed as a soundtrack for Marc Craste's animated film Varmints). On soundtrack terms, Jóhannsson clearly has more in common with Dario Marianelli (the composer whose work graces Joe Wright's Atonement and Pride & Prejudice films) than Bernard Herrmann or Ennio Morricone. It's not the first crack at soundtrack writing Jóhannsson's done either, as his CV's listing of scores for documentary, short, and feature films makes clear. And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees is an unashamedly romantic and lyrical, at times majestic, work that was awarded first prize for ‘Best Original Score' at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Even in the absence of visuals or clarification of the story line, the music communicates powerfully, despite being succinct, with its thirteen pieces totaling a refreshingly svelte forty minutes. “Theme” merges cascading piano patterns with luscious strings, while seabirds and thunderclaps add to the materials' evocative ambiance and elegiac tone. Portent arises soon after, however, when choral voices and brooding melodic passages emerge in “City Building,” where the ethereal mood—rather Pärt-like in this instance—grows impassioned, even agitated. Jóhannsson's command of ‘electronic' methods comes into play when the sound palette expands beyond acoustic sounds during miniature scene paintings such as “Entering The City,” “The Flat,” and especially “Dying City.” Elsewhere, “Rainwater” and “Pods” straddle both realms in incorporating natural sounds (stately strings melodies, harps, celeste, choir voices) and electronic materials (atmospheric sound design, processed field recordings), while “End (Snowing)” exudes a triumphant aura in bringing the recording to a quietly rapturous close.

Par for the soundtrack course, motifs re-appear in slightly different garb—the introductory piano theme surfacing again during “The Gift,” for example—and “City Building” even shows up a second time in an alternate version. On occasion, Jóhannsson's music calls to mind the work of other composers—one is reminded of John Taverner when a deep solo cello moans across a mystery-laden drone during “Escape,” for instance—but that's certainly no crime. And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees clearly suggests that if Marianelli's ever over-booked, Wright needn't look far to find the perfect replacement.

April 2010