Many composers have tried to emulate the composing spirit of Jóhann Jóhannsson, but few have done so as convincingly as Jonas Colstrup. Having worked with the late artist on a pair of film scores, Colstrup was better poised than most to score what becomes ~ consciously or not ~ an homage.
At the Crest shares the tone of mournful elegance that inhabits Jóhannsson’s work ~ even the patient pauses (especially on the precipitation-filled “Two Seas”) and soaring choirs seem long-lost and welcome again. By the end of the set, a feeling of triumph washes over the listener. The Budapest orchestra and Theatre of Voices are the two larger collaborators, while violinist Viktor Orri Árnason (whose work we have covered), Anders Banke (woodwind) and Else Torp (soprano) also feature strongly; yet at no time were all of the performers gathered in a single place. Across the course of the next year, we will likely hear the last of the pandemic restriction albums, after which the sense of separation ~ a loneliness accumulated in the music ~ may begin to dissipate. Given the loss of a friend, it was inevitable that Colstrup’s album would investigate such a tone.
At the Crest addresses a plethora of subjects at once: the wonder of nature, the violence of man, the complexity of life, the rawness of emotion. The themes cancel each other out, leaving a tabula rasa for the listener to interpret. But no matter how one receives the album, there’s no denying that it builds to the crest of its title. The music crosses oceans, climbs mountains, rides trains, and finally travels into space. The lift-off of “Continuum,” with dramatic choirs, may reflect a desire to leave the earth behind, or simply reflect the wonders of the stars. “Dark Planet” resonates like second thoughts, conveyed by deep, solemn chords, before the finale, “Two Suns,” bleeds percussion and provides an essential catharsis. Whether mourning a person or a pandemic, At the Crest provides glimmers of light that may arrive later than expected, but offer the final word. (Richard Allen)