Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Fordlandia is the second of a projected trilogy inspired by the icons of twentieth century American capitalism. After the elegy to the early computer age that was IBM 1401, a User´s Manual, this suite seems inspired by the twenties era of hope, and its unravelling in the following decade. The inner sleeve juxtaposes an image of retro-futurist rocketry with a group of plantation workers standing next to their battered Ford, stuck in real and metaphorical mud. Fordlandia itself was a vast tract of land in Brazil bought by the Ford motor company in the twenties for the establishment of rubber plantations – the aim being to extend the principles of the production line right down to the sourcing of raw materials. It was an expensive folly. Workers rebelled against the appalling conditions they were expected to endure, and blight and disease were widespread. With the invention of synthetic alternatives to rubber, the bottom fell out of the market, and the land was sold at an enormous loss to the corporation.
The album’s epic title track is a sweeping, stately piece of nostalgic melancholia. Strings build at a funereal pace and the whole thing is pervaded by a sense of lost dreams. It’s a theme throughout the album. Doleful piano and glassy strings are underpinned, and sometimes undermined, by dark rumbling beats or drones bringing with them a feeling of foreboding. Even the quasi-religious pipe organ of “Chimaerica” is offset against a background of shattered strings. “The Great God Pan Is Dead” is a beautiful choral piece that sounds like a war requiem.
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