EM1011 – The Empty Palace

EM 1011 Pär Johansson - front

Pär Johansson was born in Södertälje, Sweden in 1972 and besides his M. Sc. in computer engineering, he has studied music, acoustics and Chinese language and culture. He was a student of electroacoustic composition at EMS in 1995-97 for Anders Blomqvist, Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Andreas Hedman, Jens Hedman, Erik Mikael Karlsson and Peter Lundén. Since then he has also worked there as an administrative assistant and lecturer in acoustics and sound synthesis.

Pär Johanssons music is narrative, sometimes containing recognizable sounds, but it is not conventional programme music, though the source of inspiration often is literary or philosophical. Nor is it conceptual sound art since the aesthetic aspects of a piece are just as important to him as the underlying ideas. The intention is that it should be possible to listen to the music without any background knowledge.

Pär wants to avoid an overly intellectual approach to music, while not abandoning the formal stringency typical of Western art music, and strive for an abstract, emotional narrative not unlike that of a Chopin ballade. His works contain several parallel layers in counterpoint – a trait borrowed from ancient art music. This method of working in layers has led him to compose almost exclusively multi-channel works.

Pär Johanssons webpage


TITLE The Empty Palace
ARTIST Pär Johansson
YEAR 2006
TYPE CD, digipak
PRICE 12 Euro




1-3. Tombeau de Lovecraft, 25:22 min

4. Notes on Chines Warfare, 5:33 min

5. Showdown, 3:58 min

6. Nyarlathotep, 9:50 min

7. The Empty Palace, 24:04 min






Kuolleen Musiikin Yhdistys (Finland)
Pär Johansson – The Empty Palace

Pär Johansson has created some very weird electro-acoustic music. Its genre is immediately obvious, occasionally to the point of following the stereotype, yet it flows forward in a way that I associate far more strongly with musical genres like ambient, progressive rock or certain types of classical music. The album is full of highly narrative songs. It is very easy to notice that they carry a story. They would all work as context-less pieces as well, but at least a layman gets much more out of the compositions by reading the liner notes that accompany them. Four of the songs have been inspired by the Cthulhu mythos, two by Chinese culture, and one is a purely musical idea.

The disc opens with ”Tombeau of Lovecraft” (2002-2003), a work made out of three tracks from the first category. It shows very clearly that impressions on the Great Old Ones fit extremely well with electro-acoustic techniques. It may even well be the best genre for representing their feel through music. The slow, careful and precisely crafted structures that are then intercepted by very clever dissonant sounds create a powerful effect of ”things that should not be”. All three of the parts work as individual pieces as well: ”The Outsider” is (in a good way) sporadic and disturbing, ”At the Mountains of Madness” very close to dark ambient and ”The Colour out of Space” – naturally – dominated by a rising, buzzing drone.

”Notes on Chinese Warfare” (1998) is a harsh-sounding work that consists of cyclic episodes. Its sounds are of concrete origin or made with an analog synthesizer. The track is structurally clever, yet its squeals are not very interesting. ”Showdown” (2003) is an exquisite, minimalist sound field, where the same track is played twice at the same time, with one of the two being in reverse. In addition to that song, there is also one other true gem on the album: ”Nyarlathotep” (2001/2006), created together with Daniel Eideholm (also known for the project LEAK), is a 10 minutes long new version of their old piece ”Orqwith”. It combines piano improvisation with electric bursts, bringing forth clearly the Lovecraft-influences that inspired it. Included are also things like organic noise and whirling drones. The final track, the 24-minute ”The Empty Palace” is a fine work as well. It consists of a group of clearly differing segments, depicting changing periods of time. In it are for example beautiful gloomy ambient, heavy electronics, slow and cold electro-acoustics, and so on. It is precisely the kind of composition that stylishly crosses over genre lines.

This album is throughout a very interesting, highly positive experience that disturbs its listeners in a very powerful, fascinating manner. So if gloomy electro-acoustic music is at all to your taste, this would be a very good purchase for you.

Jiituomas, Kuolleen Musiikin Yhdistys (Finland)


Vital Weekly 548


Clever boy, this Par Johansson: studied computer engineering, music, acoustic and Chinese language and culture. He also studied electroacoustic composition at EMS in Stockholm. His music is narrative, with it’s inspirations from literary or philosophical background, but one should be able to hear this music with any background knowledge. The first three pieces are inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. The booklet describes in depth about the pieces, and it is about etc, so it’s a bit hard to leave that out of mind when listening to the piece. ‘Nyarlathotep’ is the only piece that has hardly any description except ‘The Crawling Chaos’ (I assume not the Factory Records band), but it’s indeed a chaos in this piece of piano improvisations, noise, mayhem and loads of electronic processing. It turns out to be my least favorite piece. The other pieces are of much more interest, me thinks. Analogue synthesizer sounds tumbling over each other, carefully processed field recordings being fed thro ugh a whole bunch of synths and other sorts of crazy filtering. Sometimes the electro-acoustic sounds sounds very much unfiltered, thus forming a counterpoint to the electronics that sometimes sound like a wall of sound and sometimes are as calm as the sea. The title piece is the best one of the seven, with its changing moods and textures. Overall one could say that the total length of the CD is also a bit stretched. Maybe ‘Nyarlathotep’ could/should have been left off? (FdW)

Vital Weekly 548