AllMusic Review by Heather Phares [-]
In the six years between And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees and Orphée, Jóhann Jóhannsson became a celebrated film composer, earning back-to-back Oscar nominations for his life-affirming score for The Theory of Everything and his ominous, rough-edged music for Sicario. During this time, Jóhannsson continued to work on personal projects including this, his Deustche Grammophon debut. In its own way, Orphée is also a little like a soundtrack: the composer drew inspiration from the story of Orpheus' ill-fated attempt to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld, building on Ovid and Jean Cocteau's versions of the tale in his meditations on death, rebirth, and creativity. The Orpheus myth reflected Jóhannsson's life while he worked on the album: his move from Copenhagen to Berlin marked the closing of one chapter in his life and the start of a new one.
Like And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees, Orphée is both more intimate than some of his larger works, and immediately recognizable as Jóhannsson's. On "Flight from the City," a gentle but insistent piano motif rises and falls like breath, while strings deepen its sweet ache; layers of counterpoint inspire bittersweet wonder on "The Drowned World"; "Orphic Hymn" showcases the composer's flair for choral pieces, with Paul Hillier's Theatre of Voices performing lines from Ovid's text in Renaissance style; and "Fragment II" offers a brief burst of his grander scale with its ever-widening sea of drones and strings. This piece features Orphée's main motif, an ascending harmonic pattern that also appears on the ghostly "A Song for Europa," which introduces the staticky, numbers station-like recordings that flicker through the album, adding another layer of distance and mystery.
Orphée's studies in change give equal time time to mourning and hope, whether on the spine-tingling "A Pile of Dust" or the way "A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder" and "By the Roes, and by the Hinds of the Field" dance between joy and sorrow. Similarly, Jóhannsson makes the album's chiaroscuro qualities explicit on "De Luce et Umbra," where a shadowy, almost subliminal pulse adds tension to the skyward strings, and on the Emily Dickinson-inspired diptych "Good Morning, Midnight" and "Good Night, Day," where subtle transitions evoke standing between ends and beginnings. On Orphée, Jóhannsson expresses the need to let some things and people go to let new ones in with remarkable nuance, as well as the affecting beauty fans have come to know and love.
01. Flight From The City 0:00 02. A Song For Europa 6:33 03. The Drowned World 9:04 04. A Deal With Chaos 11:47 05. A Pile Of Dust 13:31 06. A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder 18:23 07. Fragment I 20:49 08. By The Roes, And By The Hinds Of The Field 22:15 09. The Radiant City 24:53 10. Fragment II 28:28 11. The Burning Mountain 30:37 12. De Luce Et Umbra 33:24 13. Good Morning, Midnight 35:53 14. Good Night, Day 39:09 15. Orphic Hymn 43:09
Jóhann Jóhannsson Website