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Johann Johannsson – Gold Dust Review

Haunted bass strings and amplified sounds.

Sounds like…

A symphonic Silent Hill soundtrack.

The review

When Johann Johannsson passed away in 2018, he left behind a large catalogue of music that had never seen the light of day. Much of music in his later years was tied to cinematic experiences. This meant that soundtracks, single tracks or more personal pieces would either be locked away with a project as it was decommissioned or placed to the side. ‘Gold Dust’ aims to remedy some of that with six dramatic pieces of music that showcase Johann’s many talents.

The epic eight-minute ‘Head Full of Mush’ opens the release with twisted strings that bend and after a time begin to stab at you too. They are paired with a distorted brass rasp that feels like an alien war cry lost in a horror movie. The whole experience is musical existential dread and I love it. This space of confused electronica being woven into dark classical horror sets the theme as ‘How’s That’ picks up the drama. A swarm of string gurgles, radiofrequency bursts, a distant growl – it’s all here and it’s very disquieting. ‘Watching My Armor Melt’ amplifies a double bass string through a giant vibration. Part sci-fi doom, part crazy organ, it’s a strange palette cleanser.

photo of Johan Johannsson
Johann Johannsson

‘Flag With a Cross’ brings in taut woodwind to the mix with dissonant strings lilting in and out of the background. The track feels foreboding and angry, like a hornet’s nest waiting to strike. It largely ends the dark drama though as the final two tracks are like cleansing waters. ‘Standing in a Golden Field’ has a bittersweet symphonic taste to its melodies and swells. Short, succinct but melodically sombre, it’s sad rather than dark. ‘She’s your Gift’ closes the release with a Renaissance styled string arrangement that reminds me of the Hurdy Gurdy before the flute takes over. It is a sole moment of tenderness in the collection of songs and ends the collection on an uplifting moment of delicate beauty.

I’m not sure where all these songs come from but word has it Johann Johannsson has a vault full of stuff. This all fills a narrative of a dark and tense psychological horror soundtrack where big, loud, trailer bass creaks rule the roost. It is another reminds of Johann’s talent and I hope we get to hear more of his hidden collection over time. This reminds me of a more symphonic Silent Hill soundtrack and that can only be a good thing.

Recommended track: Head Full of Mush

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Johann Johannsson - Gold Dust



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