Real Live Action

Jóhann Jóhannsson

w/ The Barcelona Chair

Biltmore Cabaret; May 11, 2010

Review By Jonny Philpott

Johann Johannsson, photo by Steve Louie
Johann Johannsson, photo by Steve Louie

I arrived, not expecting much from this gig as I would usually be more inclined towards the heavier side of music, and I am more than glad to say that I was downright wrong! I was in for a night of sound exploration with the the Barcelona Chair and of course, Icelandic composer/producer Jóhann Jóhannsson.

First up, was the local post rock band the Barcelona Chair. They are an original band with great potential (and how can you not like a violinist with dreadlocks?). Their show involves heavy use of effects pedals, distortion and haunting violin, which proved to be a very effective balance. Their instrumental sound was reminiscent of the Scottish band, Mogwai. They had plenty of energy and drive, especially their guitarist, who seemed at times, to be close to having some sort of attack. However, there were times when their intense, ear-piercing sound was almost too much for the audience.

After a quick break, I was geared for the main event, the force that is Jóhann Jóhannsson. I was curious to see how his live show would go, and was pleasantly surprised to see him accompanied by a string quartet and a percussionist. His style is orchestral mixed with electronic and near-glitchy percussion, added and removed, for a slow, steady build up, reaching a climax of pleasure for the listeners and this approach was used to near perfection. As each song finished, he quietly thanked the audience with a smile. The song of the night was “IBM 1401 (Processing Unit)”—the sheer beauty and splendour of this song was astonishing. As I sat there, I remembered (to my dismay) that this was an early show and would have to finish soon. However, as they left the stage, there was a thunderous round of applause and to my surprise, Jóhann and Co. happily obliged. To say we left this gig with a feeling of loss is an understatement.