Jóhann Jóhannsson’s eight offering, The Miners’ Hymns, is also his second consecutive soundtrack release, following up last year’s success with his score for And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees. Jóhannsson’s latest release was written and composed for Bill Morrisson’s documentary of the same name about the old British mining industry, compiled from archival footage supplied by the British Film Institute and was recorded live in Durham Cathedral.
Fan’s of Jóhannsson’s previous work will be familiar with his contemporary classical, yet, experimental style. His work, regardless of being scored for film or not, has always maintained a sort of cinematic feel and ethereal presence, as his back catalogue clearly shows.
This is album is different though. Not in its sound, but its mood. Usually Jóhannsson’s work, although moody, is quite mellow and often uplifting, The Miners’ Hymns, is not. It is a dark, marauding piece, which is tied together by ominous trumpets and deep rumblings that invoke very grim places.
At times, warm organs sweep through, notably on the track ‘Industrious and Provident, We Unite to Assist Each Other’, only to be backed, and met, with dark drone atmospheres that continue to unsettle. It is only by the album’s climax with ‘The Cause of Labour is the Hope of the World’ that the Icelandic composer allows light to shine into the darkness, as the closing trumpets offer a rare uplifting moment that suggests hope.
Jóhannsson’s work is as solid and well produced as ever, his high output has not watered down the quality of his content and that is abundantly evident on The Miners’ Hymns. Although musically this offering is no great departure from his previous work it is more unique in that the emphasis is placed on much darker tones and sinister atmospheres. Fans of contemporary classical will fall for its dark beauty.