Collection: Jack Magnet Science

Jakob Magnússon has lived many lives. After forming Iceland’s legendary Stuðmenn back in high school, Magnússon spent the next five decades as a multi-disciplinary artist, never standing still for long. While Stuðmenn have remained active since the ‘70s, Magnússon also maintained a prolific rhythm as a solo musician, and produced television and film; he worked as an environmental activist, and helped enact legislation in Iceland that benefitted local creatives. And yet, nothing had prepared him for what would happen when he slowed all of that down for a moment and gathered a new group of musicians at one of the quietest corners of Iceland with the simplest of premises: Let’s play and see what happens. 

Jack Magnet Science is the latest iteration of Magnússon’s ever-evolving endeavors, using a moniker that harkens back to a 1981 album. Accordingly, Future Forecast is layered with fragments of personal history and crossed paths. Some years ago, Magnússon and his Stuðmenn compatriot Tómas Tómasson were listening to their mutual favorite musician, the Austrian jazz adventurer Joseph Zawinul. This took them down a rabbit hole, through Zawinul’s work in the Weather Report, and the iconic album that indirectly birthed that band: Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. They imagined making an album spiritually, if not aesthetically, descended from these forebears and began working on some material. The project ground to a halt when Tómasson died in 2018. 

Fast forward five years, and Magnússon found himself presented with an opportunity to record at Flóki, a remote studio in the far north of Iceland. The original vision he and Tómasson had was revived and remixed, reborn as Jack Magnet Science. Magnússon gathered an ensemble: his Stuðmenn bandmates Ragga Gísla, Disa Jakobs and Egill Olafsson on vocals and Eyþór Gunnarsson on keys, Einar Scheving on percussion, Matt Garrison on bass, Phil Doyle on reeds, the former Sugarcubes drummer Siggi Baldursson on percussion, and Weather Report’s own Peter Erskine on the kit. Together, the group decamped to Flóki with a straightforward prompt. They would jam for three days and edit those explorations into an album. 

“I’ve never witnessed or been a part of something like this before,” Magnússon reflects now, still in awe at the effect Flóki had on this group — a new band that mixed very old friends with strangers. In the serenity and remoteness of northern Iceland, the music just came to everyone. There were a few charts on hand as a starting point but those were soon abandoned. Someone would call out a chord or figure, and off they went. “We all had open minds, just letting it happen,” Magnússon says. In the end they walked away with hours of improvised music, split over 72 tracks. That provided the basis from which Magnússon would cull the seven songs on Future Forecast.

That name had been with Magnússon from the nascent stages of the project. “I wanted to make an album that would sound like you’d imagine music in the future,” Magnússon explains. “Using modern technology, no cliches allowed, no pre-conceived ideas.” At the same time, given Magnússon’s conservationist background and the settings in which the music was made, it’s hard not to read a double meaning — as if Future Forecast depicts a fate less disastrous than the one the world currently faces. 

It’s fitting that Future Forecast concludes with such an ellipsis: What began as a one-off gathering does not end here. Magnússon has ambitions to tour with the group, but more importantly sees a lot more music where this album came from — two or three additional records worth of material from these sessions alone, with plans to reconvene beyond that. By Magnússon’s estimation, each member of Jack Magnet Science was transformed by the way they chose to record Future Forecast, their vast collective experience reoriented towards a new way of making music. “This musical experience reignited my passion for creating and recording new music ” Erskine said in an interview after the Flóki sessions. That is the sound of Future Forecast: a way forward, without boundaries, suddenly aware of how many more possibilities await.