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Baker's Dozen

A Kind Of Visceral Quality: Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Favourite Records
Karl Smith , October 27th, 2016 10:38

With the imminent release of his score for Arrival, the latest in a now thriving partnership with Denis Villeneuve that will see him take on Blade Runner next year, the Icelandic composer shows traditional reluctance in crafting a list of defining albums and opts instead of 13 works that exemplify a philosophy of minimal gestures with maximum impact


Kraftwerk - Radio-Activity
You had Stereolab as your way in, but a lot of casual music listeners – even if they know Kraftwerk – might not necessarily be aware of how influential German music was at that time.

Absolutely. And I could have probably included a lot more, but I thought Radio-Activity was very representative of that as it’s from the transition period between earlier Kraftwerk and what they’d become – the first two albums are basically Neu! records. But then Klaus Dinger left and actually started Neu!, and Kraftwerk made Autobahn and really created their own sound.

Radio-Activity for me is probably – definitely – my favourite Kraftwerk record. The way that they integrate found sounds, short-wave Morse code broadcasts and news broadcasts, and incorporate them into the album as well as the vocoder sound that kind of became their signature. The robot sound.

It’s kind of a prophetic record, pre-empting the rise of the vocoder in the last decade or so and the introduction of things like mobile phone sound in the construction of pop songs.

Yeah. And it’s amazing in a way that it works – that they’re able to create these kind of simple pop songs, using very simple electronic percussions, all played by hand, before there were any drum machines to speak of. Kraftwerk have certainly had an immense influence on what I do, coming back to the idea of using simple forms and simple ideas expressed in a very strong way with a lot of character.

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