Johann Johannsson’s previous release, 2004’s Virthulegu Forsetar, was a tightly controlled, droning chamber piece that slowly unfolded over the course of an hour, revealing a deep well of meditative beauty for the patient listener. As such, it was highly regarded by chin-stroking avant-garde jerks and those who aspire to be chin-stroking avant-garde jerks.
Jerks and aspiring jerks will probably be disappointed by Dis, based on music written for the Icelandic film of the same name. Johannsson’s self-described attempt to capture the zeitgeist of twenty-first century Reykjavik, Dis condenses the elegiac beauty of Virthulegu Forsetar into bite-sized pellets of often melancholic but ultimately uplifting instrumental electronic pop.
The result is perhaps less compelling than Johannsson’s earlier work, but it’s far more accessible. Minimalist glitch tracks ease into driving kraut-pop and mournful piano compositions, all of it held together by recurring melodic lines and a general air of muted triumph. Advertisers take note: This record could easily be used to sell Volkswagens, laptops, Ikea products, or any other product catering to young progressive types. The capturing of Reykjavik’s zeitgeist can move units better than a droning chamber piece ever could. Take that, jerks.
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