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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the machine,
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars epic in scope,
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This review is from: IBM 1401 A User's Manual (MP3 Download)
love this...only the second of mr johannsson's discs that i've purchased but already a firm favourite.
think it would appeal to most people. the production is excellent...the strings soaring...the writing eclectic but still very accessible.
track 5 (part 5/ the sun's gone dim and the sky's turned black) is probably my top pick on there but they all stand out.
real good thinking music. won't be the last if his works that i buy.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful,
An album about the first computer installed in Iceland probably wouldn't immediately jump out at you as something of beauty, but this is an absolute treat. Jóhann Jóhannsson is a contemporary of Sigur Rós and, whilst this shares some of the ambient electronic feel of Iceland's finest, the music that Jóhannsson makes is much more classical. Calm, relaxing and very beautiful.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It made me cry.,
I found this several years ago in dalston's oxfam for 99p & i'm ashamed to say I've only just realized how beautiful this is.(w/headphones)the spliced bits of 'original sounds & voices' make me cry so much. I don't know why?
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars small in the scale of things,
An album of post classical electronic tinged music based around the impact of early computing in Icleand. One of the warmest and most life affirming pieces of epic music released for ages. A soundtrack to an era of the white heat of technology and a soundtrack to the massiveness of the northern sky. Epic in every way.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IBM 1401 a Users Manual,
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A friend recommended this. I would never have found it in a million years. This would have been a shame. It is awesome. Read the story behind it via Google. Really cool. Not to everyones taste and certainly not one to play at a party. It simply sits in it's own genre for me. The great part is once you have heard it, you spot it's tunes being used over film reviews and all sorts. When you tell people, this is from IBM 1401 - a users manual, they are like.. what???? Which I like. Buy it, set the scene, sit back and enjoy the ride.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Englaborn,
But, then again, what is?
I've listened to this album twice now, seeing as I only got it a couple of hours ago. It's one of those rare (mostly) instrumental albums that you love right from the off. The strings - on all tracks, but especially Part 5 - are of the sort that give you a chill down your spine, as on Sigur Ros' 'Starlfur' or A Silver mt. Zion's 'Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes', or, come to think of it, most of Englaborn. There is a lot of silence, evoking memories of the equally impressive Virthulegu Forsetar, and, like that album, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between each part.
There are a couple of negative points, though. The music sometimes heads into 'Disney Soundtrack' type orchestration, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you are.
All in all, a very good retrospective look at the relationship between art and technology, and a fine addition to the Johann Johannsson discography.
11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ibm 1401 - a Users Manual,
How anyone could fail to fall in love with this album I really don't know, perhaps it may much like Joanna Newsom's Y's end up an album that its so different and so perfect that reviewers will not be able to do anything but wax lyrical of its pure beauty and ingenuity. I have heard nothing like it, at least not within the field into which it falls, a very large field in which everyone has stood still and stopped looking at Joanna. Instead there stands a man with nothing but hope and an old IBM Users Manual.
At its most obvious on the fifth and final track Sun's Gone Dim and the Sky's Turned Black you may hear Sigur Ros, elsewhere you hear nothing but beauty and gratitude, the slow burning soundscapes sweeping along like on the documentaries you used to watch at school, the clouds whizzing across the sky as it turns from blue to red to black. A flower growing from seed, speeded up, taking in every moment as it sprouts and blooms. Whales swimming in the vast open oceans. The closing scenes of a film, the fight is over, he and been caught, the danger has gone and the family are reunited, in the background the street is covered in debris, the building is smouldering, blue and red lights flash as a testimony to all that has happened but all this fades into obscurity as he walks hand in hand with his wife and daughter in his arms, the calm after the storm, the contemplation and anticipation of a new beginning. This is an album of intense beauty and really one not to be missed.
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