Johan Johannssonn - Fordlândia

on Saturday, 20 December 2008

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Fordlândia
There's something strangely endearing about the story behind the latest album from Icelandic composer extrodinaire Jóhann Jóhannsson. I think whats makes it so wonderful is that its about such a huge company, a massive failing unknown to me at least but yet its such an awesome idea, it has an almost Dharma Initiative feel to it that makes Lost seem even more real and believable (well obviously not all of it).

Wiki: Fordlândia ("Ford-land") was a vast tract of land purchased by American automobile tycoon Henry Ford in the 1920s. Covering over 10,000 km² of land, it was situated near the city of Santarém, Brazil, and approximately 960 kilometres from the mouth of the Amazon River at Belém. At the time all rubber was naturally produced and imported from the tropics. Ford's intent was linked to his manufacturing mentality. Ford intended to secure rubber from source to final product, increasing his bottom line.
Ford intended to use Fordlândia to provide his company with a source of rubber for the tires on Ford cars, avoiding the dependence of British (Malayan) rubber. The land was hilly, rocky and infertile. None of Ford's managers had the requisite knowledge of tropical agriculture. The rubber trees, packed closely together in plantations, as opposed to being widely spaced in the jungle, were easy prey for tree blight and insects. The mostly indigenous workers on the plantations, given unfamiliar food such as hamburgers and forced to live in American style housing, disliked the way they were treated — they had to wear ID badges, and to work midday hours under the tropical sun — and would often refuse to work. In 1930, the native workers actually revolted against the managers, many of whom fled into the jungle for a few days until the Brazilian Army arrived and the revolt ended.
Ford forbade any drinking or even smoking cigarettes within the town, including inside the workers' own homes. A settlement was established five miles upstream on the "Island of Innocence" with bars, nightclubs, and brothels.
The government of Brazil was suspicious of any foreign investments, particularly in the northern Amazonia region, and offered little help. Ford tried again upstream, relocating to Belterra, where better weather conditions to grow rubber existed. But by 1945, synthetic rubber was developed, ending the world-wide demand for natural rubber. Ford's investment opportunity dried up overnight. As a result Fordlândia was a total disaster. In 1945, Henry Ford sold it for a loss of over US$20 million.

It goes without say that the album is as majestic as you'd expect from the man who gave us one of my all time favourite albums, IBM 1401 – A Users Manual and introduced me to a world of otherworldly compostions and composers, a goldmine of contemporary classical geniuses, the likes of Max Richter, Yasushi Yoshida & Ólafur Arnalds. If these names are unfamiliar to you then as mentioned before a very crude comparison would be Sigur Ros. These are songs to drift to, songs of unexplainable beauty and probably nothing to do with Fordlândia but its an enchanting story to compliment yet another enchanting album from Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Read More about Fordlandia here
Track Samples

Last Fm: Jóhann Jóhannsson is an Icelandic-born musician, composer and producer. He also runs the record label Kitchen Motors in Reykjavík, the art organization/think tank/record label which specializes in instigating collaborations, promoting concerts and exhibitions, performances, chamber operas, producing films, books and radio shows based on the ideals of experimentation, collaboration and the search for new art forms. Jóhann founded the Apparat Organ Quartet in 1999, who have played various European festivals to great acclaim. Jóhann has also produced and written music with artists as diverse as Marc Almond (Stranger Things album), Barry Adamson and Pan Sonic, The Hafler Trio, Magga Stína and many others. He has also written music for theatre, documentaries and soundtrack music for three feature films.

Oh, and on off chance you'd been wondering just how you would dance to Johan Johannsson, here's your answer...quite bizarre