Composer-Curator Q&A: First Light Records

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Here, we speak to Composer-Curator Rob Herrisone-Kelly of First Light Records, a Manchester-based label that fuses ideals of nature and heritage with the future-facing elements of electronic music and contemporary visual art.

To celebrate the selection of this year’s Composer-Curator cohort, we caught up with all the selected artists, composers and creators for a quick chat about we can expect from their projects. We also talked musical influences, plans for reshaping events in light of COVID-19, and what their lockdown listening has been!

So, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and First Light Records?

Having known each other at secondary school and then both moving to Manchester to study, Liam [Killeen] and I first established First Light Records in 2017. Driven by our love of electronic music and our shared aesthetic tastes, we wanted to create a record label that reflected the natural beauty of our rural roots as well as the forward-facing elements of electronic music and contemporary visual art that excites us and drew us to the city.

Since its inception in 2017, First Light has curated a number of well-received releases from its international roster of artists as well as hosting radio shows and events. Most notably, these events include the Novus series, a five-event programme which saw First Light take over café spaces across Manchester and transform them into pop-up venues, providing a platform for up-and-coming, boundary-pushing electronic musicians and visual artists.

And could you tell us a little more about your Composer-Curator project?

‘Third Space’ will be an immersive installation piece combining film, field recordings and live electronic music with the aim of encouraging audiences to re-examine their ideals around climate change, as well as opening new conversations about the role of technology in the future of ecological art. The project will use four-way visuals and audio to digitally recreate a location affected by climate change, which will then become the setting for the performance of commissioned live music around this concept. We hope to break down some of the ideological barriers that prevent us from seeing climate change as something geographically or temporally distant.

How have your original project and plans been affected by COVID-19?

As everyone working in creative industries is all too aware, COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the viability of live events. Like all other promotors and curators, we do not have a clear idea of when we’ll next be able to host live music events. However, we can take this time as an extended period of reflection on the project and see it as an opportunity to plan out the details before putting anything into practice.

Has it enabled you to develop your work in any unexpected directions?

We are yet to see exactly how COVID-19 will affect the planning and development stage of the ‘Third Space’ project, however we are anticipating a high volume of video calls to replace our usual meetings. Our project was always going to involve international collaboration, so we anticipated a certain amount of remote work and digital communication – but the COVID-19 situation means that we will have to take this to a new level!

So, what should we expect to see and hear?

‘Third Space’ will be an international collaboration between sound artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Expect to be immersed in a surround-sound, multi-screen installation that incorporates field recordings and footage from a place affected by climate change and pairs this material with live electronic music by Adriaan de Roover, a Belgium-based producer whose most recent album ‘Leaves’ is a must-listen masterclass in restrained, textured music-making.

What else is exciting you in the UK new music community at the moment?

There are a lot of artists working in the UK creating music that excite us at the moment. To name a few that you might be yet to check out: Loraine James, Piksel, unperson, Hyperdawn and Daniel Ruane. More generally, we’re excited by the current focus on collectives, independent labels and co-operative venues outside London – although who knows what the state of independent music will be following the COVID-19 lockdown.

And lastly, what have you been listening to during lockdown?

  • Deep Dive Set – Nose Dive: Afroconscious jazz rap melding American hip-hop traditions with West African rhythms and neocolonial critique
  • тпсб – Sekundenschlaf: a uniquely atmospheric, cross-genre album from the mysterious Russian producer ‘тпсб’, a highlight of recent years for us both and something we were listening to a lot pre-lockdown too!
  • Mellow Candle – Swaddling Songs: a cult classic and only album to be released by the short-lived Irish folk-rock outfit, an atmospheric psych-y prog-y masterpiece

Learn more about the Composer-Curator programme

Visit the First Light Records website

Sound and Music gratefully acknowledges support from PRS Foundation as a Talent Development Partner:

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