Feature Music & Film

The Cinematic Undertones of Halina Rice

Halina Rice is an electronic music producer and AV artist renowned for her vivid and eclectic style ranging from downtempo soundscapes to beat-driven IDM. Often drawing inspiration from film and working at the intersection of art, music and tech, Rice explores the potential for music to reach beyond boundary conventions placing both the artist and the audience in an immersive world that perfectly suits the language of cinema. Ahead of her new album release (Elision) on Friday 30th September, we caught up with the artist to discuss her process and the influence film has had on her work.

Hi Halina. Can you tell us a bit about the origin of your New Worlds project and what you were looking to achieve with it?

The vision for the project is first and foremost about the music – influences include Jon Hopkins, Rival Consoles, Lorn and other artists making emotive electronic music. Following from this I have always had a strong interest in uniting music, art and tech to create an immersive experience and to take the audience out of their ‘day to day’. For each track I work with visual designers to create abstract worlds using gaming software such as Unity 3D – we then integrate mixed reality visuals where I am mapped live into the projected visuals to blend the elements together. Where it’s possible I also work with immersive sound and a 360 array of speakers using L-ISA by L-Acoustics to heighten that effect.

Photo by Ewan Galvin (Strange Brew, Bristol)

From a visual arts perspective, who do you count as your early influences?

I take a lot of inspiration from art installations by creators such as Ryoji Ikeda or United Visual Artists who stage immersive installations working with projections or lights and using the room as a canvas. Thinking about film – the video aesthetic for ‘Spheres’ certainly has influence from Metropolis and I guess on one level films like Blade Runner have influenced the 3D dystopian city we built for the track ‘Breaks’ where actual film of me that is distorted and warped is projected onto large billboard areas.

Top: Blade Runner (©1982 Warner Bros.) / Above: Metropolis (©1927 UFA GmbH)

What is it that the more advanced visuals are now adding to your shows and what impact are you hoping these will have on your audience?

I’ll be starting work with a technology company to produce a metaverse concert (more to be announced soon!). The avatars they are capable of creating with their tech are incredibly true to life – to the point of being indistinguishable from reality. This means we can place my performance in a very abstract environment – it will be really interesting to mix the real and unreal together for a more profound audience reaction.

How do you find the people to work with on the visual side of the project – was there something in particular you were searching for?

When I released my first EP in 2015 I contacted all the art colleges in London for collaborators and ended up working with three designers to create videos. One of these was Jan Petyrek with whom I have worked on several projects across the years. I also worked with VJ Mowgli who I met through playing at regular events like CRUX AV in London where artists can perform and trial experimental music and visuals – it’s good to get involved in events where you can meet and share ideas with other AV enthusiasts. Across all the designers I the key factor is whether they share an interest in being open to innovation and if our aesthetics work together.

Photo by Ewan Galvin (Strange Brew, Bristol)

The avant-garde artist Brion Gysin’s invention of The Dream Machine in 1961 was an attempt to create a meditative, transcendental experience by the use of a rotating, flickering device – mimicking sunlight flashing through trees on a fast-moving train. It was even used by Iggy Pop at the end of some of his live shows. It seems there is so much potential now for live events to connect with audiences on so many levels. Is there something in the shows you are now creating which are looking to create a ‘heightened’ experience for audiences through sound, light and visuals?

It’s so interesting that you mention this as I went to the new incarnation of the Dream Machine in Woolwich recently which has a Jon Hopkins sound track. I was pretty sceptical going in about the experience and whether I would start hallucinating colours and shapes but it was quite profound and the music was awe-inspiring. I’m not sure if what I do precisely fits into the same category as this – I feel I’m attempting more to convey something that’s unique to me rather than use science to provoke a response.

Brion Gysin and William Burroughs with their Dream Machine

What are the particular skill-sets that you’ve developed over the years that lend well to doing what you do now?

I have definitely expanded my knowledge of staging a performance and the technical implementation of live audio, projection and lights. I’m pretty organised and keep a lot of detailed spreadsheets which is not particularly glamorous but helps me keep hold of all the diverse elements that go into producing and promoting your own show.

Experimental electronic music producers and composers often create film scores – for example Oneohtrix Point Never for the Safdie Brothers films (Uncut Gems and Good Time), Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network) and Daft Punk (Tron: Legacy). Are there particular film soundtracks that you love and/or film composers that you admire?

Yes! The soundtrack for Under the Skin by Mica Levi is incredible – the track ‘Love’ is very moving. Also recently the soundtrack for Luce by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury I think was really varied and out of the ordinary as well as expressing the themes of the film.

Top: Under The Skin (©2014 StudioCanal UK) / Above: Mica Levi (©Dave M Bennett)

If you could have created the soundtrack for a film, which would it be?

Donnie Darko. I don’t think anything can beat the use of Tears for Fears’ ‘Head over Heels’ but the film as a whole has the surreal, emotive and unsettling quality that I would love to create for.

By Gabriel Solomons

Gabriel's earliest cinematic memory was believing a man could fly in Richard Donner's original (and best) Superman. Following numerous failed attempts at pursuing a career as a caped crusader (mild vertigo didn't help), he subsequently settled down into the far safer – but infinitely less exciting – world of editorial design. A brief stint at the Independent newspaper in London sharpened his skills but cemented his desire to escape the big smoke forever, choosing to settle in the west country. He set up the arts and culture magazine 'Decode' in 2003 and currently edits and art directs the Big Picture magazine. When asked by mates what his favourite film is he replies The Big Lebowski while when in the presence of film afficianados he goes all poncy and says Fellini's 8 1/2.

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