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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


The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy
You used the term “frame of reference” earlier, and this is a record that comes up time and time again in these lists as a reference point for so many people – of a time, a place, a sound, and a way of thinking.

Yeah, this is a record that came out when I really started making music on my own in a serious way. I’d always been playing around with my own melodies and my own improvisations since I first started playing music, but Psychocandy came at a time when I started playing around with 4-track recorders and playing guitar using distortion and feedback. It was a very direct influence on my first forays into making music publicly: I was in a band when I was 16 or 17, which was very influenced by the Jesus and Mary Chain, making recordings of layers and layers of guitars – walls of sound – and then I graduated to an 8-track and to Atari computers and continued those experiments.

Moving into the kind of layers that Kevin Shields would be proud of.

Exactly. But the Jesus and Mary Chain are much more important to me than My Bloody Valentine: I love the first EP, but I was never a huge fan of Loveless. For me Psychocandy took care of all that. But I was – and still am – a huge fan of bands like Loop and Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized, and those bands who were mining that very Village Underground-influenced sound. Loop, especially – the way they used distortion and fuzz pedals and layering to create textures; and that’s what Psychocandy did, too – creating these fascinating textures.

In many ways I’m still doing the exact same thing as when I was 16 and trying to emulate Psychocandy, except with faster computers and more resources at my disposal and a wider frame of reference.

In one way or another we’re all still 16 and trying to make Psychocandy in our bedroom.

I think so. And music you have at that age has a very different effect on you to music that you hear later on. You’re very receptive to influences. Maybe it’s because you have more time to sit around and listen to the same record over and over again when you’re 16 years old. Anyway, it’s an absolute masterpiece.

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