Icelandic musician Jóhann Jóhannsson is an undisputed talent, but his latest release, a fifty minute accompaniment to Durham mining documentary film The Miner's Hymns, underwhelms. The problem is, to the composer's credit, more to do with the innate hardship these sort of affairs often suffer from: starved of the narrative the songs serve to compliment, orphaned from the cinematic bounds that birthed them, there is little to keep these brass-led offerings of contemporary classical grandeur from drifting into hard-up monotony.

Of course, this isn't always the case. History is littered with pieces of music written for stage and screen that have long outlived the fictions they were created for, from opera to Herrmann. In 2007, fellow Fat Cat Records dweller Max Richter's Waltz With Bashir score conjured enough of what made his solo efforts so enigmatic and entertaining for that soundtrack to work as a standalone release, for instance.

Unfortunately for Jóhannsson, The Miner's Hymns is too stately and conceding to leave the listener with anything to do other than wait out its very literal cues and falling chordal columns. 'An Injury To One Is The Concern Of All' is obviously tasked with aping the descending movements of a miner moving into the ominous darkness of the under-earth, and good God, doesn't Jóhannsson make you know it; large, echoing spirals of brass, using the same downward facing motifs that sustain the whole soundtrack. Well performed and coherently cued, but not much in the way of a spellbinding home-listen.

In theory, Jóhannsson is too precocious a classical craftsman for this music to go unheard on its own merits. But this release simply inhabits a liminal netherworld of being neither bad, nor good, just irrelevant. Where it might combine with its filmic accompaniment to prod and poke at any number of metaphysical questions, or at least at the cultural significance of a time and place where men mined the earth and in that sense almost literally lived off the land. Divorced of the film, it only begs one question: why? There is no doubt something here for devout fans of the Icelandic musician and his typically considered approach to instruments, but for everyone else, your money, time and attention is better spent elsewhere.

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