Fresh from the success of the Sicario score, Jóhann Jóhannsson returns with the polar opposite (pun intended). End of Summer is a sedate, otherworldly expression of arctic cold and white-hued landscapes: subtle where Sicario was overt and filigreed where it was bombastic. The film’s degraded 8mm black-and-white stock finds sonic expression in stretched strings (courtesy of cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir) and gorgeously elongated synths (from Robert A.A. Lowe, known to our readers as Lichens). Even the wordless vocals (on the closing tracks) lean toward patience and grace. An additional bonus: this is the first film that Jóhannsson has directed; by moving from the scorer’s seat to the director’s seat, he’s added yet another layer to his already spectacular resume.
While this is Jóhannsson’s album, I ask our readers’ indulgence for an additional note on Lowe. I met the artist once in a bar, opening for Explosions in the Sky, perhaps the worst booking ever. All around him were screams and yells, broken bottles and belches, yet through it all, he continued to present the most beautiful, measured performance imaginable. I’ve met Jóhannsson too, in a more fitting venue; and while I’ve not met Guðnadóttir, I’ve heard her play, and witnessed the slow reverence with which she caresses the cello. End of Summer offers a fitting setting for these performers’ specific style of play.
The title of the film refers to the last days of the Antarctic summer, a 20-day period during which the images were filmed. This summer is short, yet memorable: a time for penguins to frolic before their long march begins again. And yet the title is also an elegy for a melting landscape, the sadness never more apparent than in the strings of the opening segment. In one set of circumstances, summer stands for celebration, but in another, it means the creeping destruction of a glacial environment. While this message is not trumpeted in the film, it’s implied. Something has been lost; something else is drifting away. As the listener drifts away to these sounds, it is with a sense of the irreparable. Jóhannsson’s composition captures not only the sound of life “at the end of the world”, but at the end of an era. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 4 December