Photo by Anna Maggý
Magnús Jóhann is an Icelandic composer, producer and keyboardist. Despite his young age, he has explored a wide array of styles–introspective jazz, timeless popular songs, dissonant string scores and oddball electronics, to name but a few–across hundreds of recordings: solo work, scores for film and theatre, as a session player and a record producer. He has released three solo albums, an EP and two duo albums: one with singer extraordinaire GDRN and one with jazz-bass legend Skúli Sverrisson.
Equally adept as a composer, producer and keyboardist, Magnús Jóhann’s presence was a marker of quality on hundreds of contemporary pop, r&b and hip-hop recordings in Iceland long before his eclectic interests exploded onto ambitious solo albums spanning introspective jazz, timeless popular songs, dissonant string scores and oddball electronics. He has released three solo albums, an EP and two duo albums: one with singer extraordinaire GDRN and one with jazz-bass legend Skúli Sverrisson.
Growing up in the tight-knit musical community of Reykjavík was a godsend for Magnús Jóhann’s voracious creative appetite. Since his teens, he has been an artist in high demand and the confounding variety of projects he’s worked on has seen him grow in many directions simultaneously. Nevertheless, he has carved out a personal sonic niche characterised by bold melodic colours, space for improvisation, jazz harmony and a healthy disregard for genre conventions.
Although trained as a jazz pianist, Magnús Jóhann finds inspiration in–well–nearly everything. ‘If your creative antenna is powered on,’ he says, ‘the most mundane things or activities can be sources of deep inspiration.’ Maybe this helps explain irreverent song titles such as ‘Clean Teeth’ or ‘Einkavæðing Búnaðarbankans’ [Privatisation of the Agricultural Bank]. When one finds the world so rich with meaning, nothing is simple or single-sided. The same holds true for Magnús Jóhann’s music: it is never merely serious or silly, loud or quiet, plain or complex… it is neither this nor that, but always many things at once.
- Elizabeth Barker