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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


Nico – Desertshore
Nico is someone who’s kind of accompanied me for a very long time. The Velvet Undergrund & Nico was an album that one of my sisters owned. When I started listening to music I sort of delved into their record collections and I found myself listening to the first side of The Velvet Underground & Nico album quite a lot. Just as a ten year old, listening to it as pop songs – because they are beautiful pop songs: ‘Sunday Morning’, ‘Femme Fatale’… maybe not ‘Venus in Furs’, though. ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’ is just this jaunty little walk tune, you know? I had no idea what they were about and what the connotations were and what the significance of this band was – it was just an album that my sister had along with her Bob Marley albums or whatever.

But I’ve always had a very strong affinity for Nico and her voice and her story and the way that she managed to create a sound and a voice as a composer and a singer that’s uniquely her own. There’s nothing like it – nobody you can compare; you can’t say she’s inspired by anything other than herself. You feel like she’s someone who had these limitations as a musician, but managed to turn them into tremendous strengths.

She had something to say – which not all people who put out records do. I can listen to her albums endlessly; the one’s around that period are particular favourites of mine. I picked Desertshore, but it could just as easily be The Marble Index.