Reflections on a Dead Sea is the debut full-length album by British composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Danny Mulhern which presents an augmented, evolved and extended version of his purposefully muted original score for short film The Dead Sea, directed by Stuart Gatt. Set in Libya and backed by the humanitarian organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (aka Doctors Without Borders), the film tells the harrowing story of Emmanuel and Olu, a husband & wife who become incarcerated in a migrant detention center following a failed attempt to flee to Europe. The album was recorded in collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra and cellist Oliver Coates in a format that fuses composed and improvised elements together as Mulhern explains:
“We discovered the sound that fitted the film best was extremely soft articulations, played so they were barely audible. It opened up a fascinating sound world that I felt could go beyond the film…For the album sessions I had some pre-recorded piano improvisations, with instructions for each player to play over them within certain parameters (such as articulations, choosing notes from certain chords and never staying longer than a bar on any given note.) We could then home in on interesting sounds that were suggested with each take – a sort of controlled randomness. This way of working was an epiphany; it was really exciting to essentially hear new music coming out of the control room speakers for the first time.”
The outcome of this process is an enthralling opus that, as the title implies, functions as something of a musical mirror that reflects the moving narrative, jarring juxtapositions, and powerful themes of the film in a deeply resonant way. Taken a step further, a number of the tracks have been paired with new visual treatments, a wonderful example of which is this video created by Antony Barkworth-Knight for “In the Hands of Strangers” which captures the mesmerizing beauty and ominous undercurrent of the piece.
Reflections on a Dead Sea will be available November 10 from 1631 Recordings in a limited grey vinyl LP edition as well as digital download. Pre-orders are now available.