If I had found an old computer dating back to the 1960,s I would have first tried to sell it on "E Bay" and failing that hauled it off to the tip faster than you could say blown valve. Thankfully not everyone is as profligate and regressive as me. One such person is Johann Johannsson who on discovering his fathers old IBM 1401,the worlds first mass produced business computer and one for which his father used to be a technician , saw the possibilities to create a stunning piece of art and well....promptly did. In case the word art has got you running off like Jack Straw spotting a veil hold your horses. For while this album is undoubtedly a great work of art, it is also some of the most stunning and evocative music you will ever hear.
Johannsson has taken samples of the IBM,s training tapes and utilised them as the thematic hub of the five pieces of music that make up "Users Manual". The rather prosaic voice detailing the machines workings is allied to some breath taking string arrangements that recall no less than Nyman or even Morricone and subtle sprinklings of electronic chimes, blips and bleeps or simple progressive motifs. Johannssons father should share some of the credit for this music too as it was he who first discovered a method of programming music from the machine.
This is music that has been approached with the definitive belief that music derived from a machine can resonate with soul and emotion .It also glows with positivity that humans can create something from nothing. Something that radiates life, energy and feeling and through an unerring force of atavistic emotion animates the inanimate.
Anyway this review is becoming way too pretentious but this is art I am talking about. But while the concept smacks of worthy indulgence the results are some of the most astonishing music released this year. It imprints a postcard from the sixties and then drags the time line forward 40 years to see what can be done with it. We are talking in a sense about going back to the future. What it looks like I don't know but it sounds amazing.