The sun’s gone dim and the sky’s turned black

This week The Times gave away Joy Division’s final album Closer*, doubtless lifting the national mood no end – in the present financial climate shouldn’t it be looking to keep readers, not give them yet more encouragement to leap from the top of the nearest tall building?

Happily, though, the Guardian Online had a much better idea: posting 12 tracks from Icelandic bands playing at the upcoming Iceland Airwaves Festival. If Iceland can help us mess up our economy, surely they can help us feel a bit better with some soothing (and angry) music, too – right?

And they can. Especially in the form of Ólafur Arnalds’ deeply lovely 3055.

But what’s any of this got to do with technology, you might ask?

Well, the clue’s in the title of the blog post: while pretty reflective of the gloomy state of the world economy just now, it’s actually the name of the gorgeous closing track of IBM 1401: A User’s Manual. Composed by another Icelander, Jóhann Jóhannsson, IBM 1401 was inspired by his father’s recordings of one of Iceland’s very first mainframe computers – it’s chief maintenance engineer, Jóhann Gunnarsson learned of a way to make music with it, and when the machine was decommissioned in 1971 recorded its melodies as they were played for the last time. You can read the full story behind the album here.

As for the track from which I borrowed the post title, it can’t fail to lift your mood (the video perhaps not so much) – shimmeringly beautiful from beginning to end, and from about 04:43 it’s even more so:

So, yep, Iceland – it’s not so bad really, is it?

UPDATE: If you’re interested in seeing all this financial scariness from the perspective of an everyday Icelander just trying to make sense of it all and get on with her life, Alda Kalda’s The Iceland Weather Report blog is excellent reading.

*once described to me as “probably the most miserable album ever.” At the time, I have to admit, I considered this a recommendation, and it didn’t disappoint.


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