Luke Howard Announces ‘The Sand That Ate The Sea’

July 26, 2019

Following the critical and commercial success of composer and instrumentalist Luke Howard’s Open Heart Story and its subsequent companion EP More Heart Stories, Mercury KX is excited to announce the release of Luke’s new album The Sand That Ate The Sea. Future Coda and its video are out now. The video was filmed in the remote outback town of Andamooka (South Australia), the striking visuals resonating powerfully with Luke’s emotive string and piano arrangements alongside guitar by Leonard Grigoryan and celestial vocals from Shards (Erased Tapes) and fellow Australian Lior.

The Sand That Ate The Sea is inspired by the notion of creating music for visuals directed by fellow Australian and up and coming film director Matthew Thorne. The music and visuals together present a non-idealised snapshot of the heat of the Australian outback and its communities pending an incoming storm. The resulting LP is clearly nourished by this exchange between the two artists, as they took inspiration from each other’s work, but is also very much a bold new addition to Howard’s increasingly impressive canon. As proof of how inspiring the collaborative experience proved, Howard found himself visiting musical areas he was yet to exploit in his own work with this project. With its contemporary stance on the mythic and spiritual connotations that come with the desert, the composer found himself writing for choir for the first time, recruiting Erased Tapes-signed vocal group Shards (who featured on Nils Frahm’s All Melody) and Australian-Israeli singer Lior, to create a fresh reflection of the desert’s minimal yet encompassing environment.

For certain moments I was inspired to aim for a sacred music feel. 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.

Luke Howard

Underpinning the vocal work, strings and piano for the album were recorded live in a performance space in Melbourne with a young string quintet who were invited to play Howard’s compositions along to the visuals rather than recording to strict time cues (“I wanted to record everything properly in a beautiful sounding room because string players respond better to a great room,” notes Howard), while Australian classical guitarist Leonard Grigoryan also added some evocatively scratchy parts to conjure up a musical vision of never-ending horizons, relentless heat and gritty red dirt.

Fittingly for a work created in such an inspiring, collaborative atmosphere The Sand That Ate The Sea covers much ground musically, ranging from long atmospheres to short breaths; soothing choir vocals to more urgent ambiences, yet Howard’s vision ensures a strong coherency underpins the record.

The record is quite diverse texturally, but I think all the music being in the same key gives it a kind of unity, maybe even more than my other records. Once we’d mixed everything Matt and I sat down and listened to the music without the visuals, to answer the question: have we made an album or an audio-visual piece? I think we both felt it hung together on its own.

Luke Howard

A new album is not the only thing Howard has taken from his The Sand That Ate The Sea collaboration, as the composer also believes the new places that the album has touched and the multi-media nature of the work, will have a lasting resonance on his own music.

The desert has worked its magic.