Bardi Johannsson, a tall Icelandic man, has been playing under the name Bang Gang since 1996. First came the very atmospheric You (2000), with surprisingly soft, vaporous outlines for someone with such a violent stage name. 2003 confirmed Bardi’s talent as a composer, performer and producer. Two simultaneous albums made him a major figure of musical melancholy: Something Wrong, Bang Gang’s second album, where the softness of the acoustic songs meets adventurous electronic explorations; and Lady & Bird, a side-project for an androgynous duo with the talented artist Keren Ann. Hot on the success of these two creations, but never over-confident, Bardi toured Europe, Japan and the USA before vanishing back to his anonymous activities, away from the limelight. He is a complete artist and devotes himself to an assortment of subjects and styles, always keeping the same aesthetic awareness: he admits to an inclination to both the roughest hard-rock and Ennio Morricone or Serge Gainsbourg, and says that limiting his artistic expression only to music would make him feel frustration and suffering. In the past five years, he has been anything but idle: he co–directed a short film (Red Death, screened at the Pompidou Centre in 2004), produced and wrote lyrics for several Icelandic artists, and composed a soundtracks (Haxan, 2005).
Nevertheless, and for our greatest pleasure, Bardi has returned to his first love: songwriting. For, once again, that is what this third album is: a collection of songs. Extremely well-written songs, full of melodic outbursts, the likes of which are rarely seen these days; with careful arrangements and coherence, but still diverse. From the pop manifest to the almost metallic influences of a hit, I Know You Sleep is an irresistible pop-rock track; the emotional crescendo and the almost mystical rise of the opera singer on Ghost from the Past will bring tears to your eyes; and Don’t Feel Ashamed is an ethereal delicacy, a sublime composition worthy of the best of The LotusEaters or The Cocteau Twins. Bardi proves here, if needed, the extent of his talent.
Bardi Johannsson loves mysteries and eclecticism; he is always ready to take the least expected detours. Like the spectres evoked in this third album, Ghosts from the Past, he sometimes disappears and reappears, but his music never cesses to haunt us.