Video Premiere: Soft Machines by Daniel Elms


Hailing from the port city of Hull in East Yorkshire, composer and performer Daniel Elms focuses his work particularly on creating “electroacoustic urban pictures” which feature intricate orchestral textures fused with post-industrial soundscapes. For his new album Islandia soon to be released on the New Amsterdam imprint, Elms draws his inspiration from close to home as he presents five works for chamber orchestra, electric guitar, and synthesizers each of which is in some way referential to the coastal towns of North East England incorporating aspects of landscape, community, folk songs, and literature.

Islandia was recorded at Abbey Road studios and features performances by musicians of leading UK chamber groups including the Jubilee Quartet and Manchester Collective. For a preview of the album as well as a mesmerizing visual treat, Stationary Travels is pleased to premiere “Soft Machines” accompanied by a video created by filmmaker David Briggs. As Elms relates how the piece was constructed, it becomes clear just how deeply he has meditated on how to use the music to express very specific concepts and atmospheres.

“‘Soft Machines’ has instrumentation chosen especially to suggest the Bebop connotations of William Burrows and other beat poets. This was defined by trumpet, with harmon mute, piano and percussion. With use of the vibraphone to provide over-ringing and bleed chords and the use of strings was to create a “mist” throughout the work. Finally, the use of electric guitar was key in the visceral nature of the work —it was used to respond to the structures and foundations in the same way jazzers would respond to the harmonic structure of a song.” – Daniel Elms



The interplay between the intricately plucked and bowed guitar and the empyrean orchestral elements here is just gorgeous, but there is also a distinct out-of-time abstract quality to the piece achieved by the use of “Stravinski Rotation” referring to a technique used by the composer to serialize notes in way that frees the music from predictable patterns and lends a certain atonality. All of these elements make for a piece that is rich in complexity and seems to offer a slightly different perspective each time it is played.

Links: Islandia on Bandcamp | Daniel Elms website | New Amsterdam Records

Islandia will be available across major digital platforms beginning June 21st 2019 along with the release of limited edition heavyweight vinyl LP (with risograph poster insert) and CD from New Amsterdam Records that features artwork produced by local Hull and Yorkshire artists, Joe Cox and Stewart Baxter. In advance of its release, the album can be streamed in full with a subscription to the label’s Windmill Series.  For those in the UK, Daniel will be performing the album live with members of Manchester Collective on several dates later this month (see below).

Tuesday 18th June, 20.00
The CLF Arts Cafe, London
Friday 21st June, 20.00
Penny Red Arts, Hull
Saturday 22nd June 20.00
The White Hotel, Salford