Starwalker – Johannsson and Dunckel together

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bardi Johannsson of Gang Bang last year, and listening to him describe his musical process and the varied types of work he was involved with, from straight albums to theatrical music to film scores, was a reminder of all the possibilities in creative collaboration. His beautiful compositions could set innumerable cameras rolling, even if only those visuals hidden within your thoughts. In 2014, he joined together with French icon Jean-Benoit Dunckel of Air as Starwalker. It is a collaboration of like minds. Their website sweeps you into their galactic vision with beautiful visuals matched with sound, an elegant rendering of their delicate awareness of balance and emotion. Their first full length album is released April 1, and it’s a beauty. A slow, thoughtful, enveloping album, it gathers you into its intriguing mix of warmth and icy cold with delicate precision.

Holidays, the first song, begins with a childlike vocal that almost induces worry – the feeling hints at bright, happy days…could it be true? The piano is so lovely, the chorus is poppy and sweet – why then does it induce dread? Lost innocence, fear, or simple beauty – any possibility is magnified within the sound.

Blue Hawaii is a gorgeous ballad, accompanied by a mysterious video on their website. While it alludes to a kind of classic electro pop, the way they skillfully change the mood instantly with a chord change or a textured sound leaves you watching your emotions shift. “You want to crush the world but the world will crush you.” As with all their songs, the depths within await your possibility to comprehend them.

Losers Can Win shows a simple pop structure that harks back to the French pop songs of the sixties, But draped on that scaffolding is layers of developed sound above which float the perfectly modern lyrics. “You say you’ve given your best shot…it ain’t close to all that you’ve got…you’ve got to make a new start when you’re going insane…”

Radio has a jazzy late night feel, with that tempting bass line, a deliciously retro sound in the chorus, and a smooth glide, without losing sight of the album’s starry sky dream. Oh yes.

But every song carries its own intimate atmosphere, array of textures, and superb, ear caressing production. By the time album ends with Demeter, one is caught up in whatever elan brought these two electronic geniuses, or genii, together. The song is a dreamy high note, a cascading flow of warm and cold punctuated by precise drumming and interlacing rhythms. In total, the album reveals a wide open landscape of dreams and natural beauty, reminiscent of the island that might have inspired some of the elegant, disruptive music within.

Review by Alice Severin


Music and Mutterings of 2015

Well, here we are at the last day of 2015. And it’s been an interesting year, as in “may you live in interesting times.” There’s nothing that can be said quickly about what’s going on around us, except that you have to hope that more people are taking a personal role in speaking out against bigotry, ignorance, and hatred, wherever it shows up. Positivity and compassion, may those ideas fill us all and shape our so-called reality.

Musically, there’s been the constant flow of new material, although to look at the charts, you’d find it hard to believe that besides a small handful of people in the eye of the media, anyone else is actually doing anything. Step away from the mainstream though, and there’s a lot of people out there, fighting the good fight and struggling to get heard in the flood of what’s available.

Someone said to me that artists who have achieved success should stand aside, and let the new come through. I really don’t agree with that, for many reasons, not the least being that to say to someone they no longer have a reason to create is to kill them, early. Let’s be grateful for the people out there who want to keep going, and do, right to the end.  

We just lost a fine example of living life on your own terms, not to a mediatized schedule. Lemmy (RIP) said “If you’re going to be a fucking rock star, go be one. People don’t want to see the guy next door on stage; they want to see a being from another planet.”

May you find your planet in 2016.

2015 Video Playlist

Top Ten Albums of 2015

Drenge – Undertow

Dave Gahan and Soulsavers – Angels and Ghosts

Duran Duran – Paper Gods

Jamie xx – In Colour

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Spector – Moth Boys

Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool

American Wrestlers – American Wrestlers

Dilly Dally – Sore

Mew – + –

Top Ten Songs of 2015

Dave Gahan and Soulsavers – All of This and Nothing

Duran Duran – Paper Gods

Drenge – Standing in the Cold

Kendrick Lamar – How Much a Dollar Cost

Spector – All The Sad Young Men

American Wrestlers – Wild Yonder

Mew – Water Slides

Jamie xx – Hold Tight

Dilly Dally – Desire

Bang Gang feat. Keren Ann – A Lonely Bird

Special Mentions

DTCV – Uptime!

Lull – Bubble Tea EP

Bardi Johannsson Returns With Bang Gang

Live stream up today and release June 23!

Bardi Johannsson is one of those artists who is in constant motion. From film scores to television commercials, theatrical productions to concerts with orchestras, his creative output is prodigious. Johannsson has worked with Keren Ann on their joint project Lady & Bird, and with Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air on Starwalker. He wrote the score for the film De toutes nos forces directed by Nils Tavernier, son of Bertrand. He wrote the score for the controversial re-release of Haxan, a Swedish film. He created music for three productions at National Theatre of Iceland and Centre Dramatique d’Orleans in France, and released a compilation album of his work for other media under the title Selected Film & Theater Works Of Bardi Johannsson. But his first band was Bang Gang. It’s been 7 years since the last album under that name, but he is finally ready to release the latest offering. With the evocative title of The Wolves Are Whispering, the album pulls you on a journey of moody intensity, alternately sad and happy. The music has the effect of sweeping you away into an unexpectedly emotional world. Impossible to listen to without feeling the wild and wide horizons of sound soak into your very being, The Wolves Are Whispering leaves the listener somewhat altered, the original mood dissolved in the careful plotting and construction of composition. Beautiful, cinematic, and yet weirdly poppy, Bardi Johannsson has created another atmospheric dreamscape.
Alice Severin was able to speak to the soft-spoken musician/composer/filmmaker/television personality/clothes designer about his latest project and music as a visual and physical experience.

I picked the songs that I liked more (laughing), and I had a lot of unfinished ideas, also. And I went through all the demo ideas that I had, and I decided I was going to wake up in the morning and listen to some ideas, and if I didn’t feel like working on them on that day, it was not worth finishing.

More interview with Bardi Johannsson tap here…