It's perhaps a cliche, but it's certainly true: there's an innately visual quality to Luke Howard's music.
The composer is able to conjure wonderful tone poems, fusing together different colours into lavish, widescreen mosaics.
New album 'The Sand That Ate The Sea' is out now, a refreshing, absorbing song cycle, not an album to be understood quickly.
Album highlight 'Salt Flats' has been turned into a short film by director Matthew Horne, part of a wider project the two have embarked on, and the results are a stunning journey into the Australian outback.
It re-unites a creative pairing that have already enjoyed much success - the film maker utilises Luke Howard's music in his 2014's film Where Do Lilacs Come From.
Luke explains: "With 'The Sand That Ate The Sea', Matt essentially encouraged me to watch some of his visuals he’d shot and then go away and write my own album. The music and visuals work together, but I think this approach allowed me to create a record with its own identity."
Indeed, the composition itself shares roots with the director's own work. "The root inspiration for the music was Matt’s work – almost every piece on the album started from improvising to his visual footage. Which is why it sounds quite different to my other albums. But after those initial ideas, I put the visuals away and worked on the music as if it were a more traditional record. Matt was still very involved but it was more about the aesthetics and emotion of the music, rather than how it fit to a particular scene."
"For certain moments I was inspired to aim for a sacred music feel,” he continues. “I love that kind of music. In classical music there’s holy minimalism, the music of Henryk Górecki and Arvo Pärt, which is not necessarily sacred but it is an aesthetic of strongly expressed simple ideas."
"I’d never written for choir before but as Matt was keen to have one we went down that route, which was a new direction for me. The human voice brings a new set of constraints compared to writing for strings – they have to breathe after all! We wanted the sacred sound and pure tone of a cathedral choir."
The arrangement verges on the ambient, while remaining texturally dynamic. The dimensional transformation is something Luke embraced, and it certainly shines through in 'Salt Flats'.
He explains: "Writing music with such a static quality I’d have previously associated with ambient electronic music ... I think the film helped slow down my otherwise overactive mind that’s often trying to cram too many ideas into too short an amount of time!"
"A visual anchors your ideas and gives you a beautiful structure, so you can surprise yourself,” he admits. “So this record has opened up a few things and it will be interesting to see how it informs future projects."
Watch the wonderful video for 'Salt Flats' below.
'The Sand That Ate The Sea' is out now.