Falling Light, the curtain-raiser for this year’s Leeds International Festival, has been described as a work that “blurs the boundaries between music and art installation”.
Taking over Leeds Corn Exchange, it’s a collaboration between the acclaimed electronic musician and DJ Daniel Avery and the London-based design studio Flat-e, that uses light projected onto a suspended translucent screen to visually interpret Avery’s music.
“The guys, Rob [Slater] and Matt [Bateman], who are Flat-e collective, we’ve been working together for a couple of years now,” explains Avery. “They made a visual accompaniment to every track on my album, Song For Alpha, that came out last year. We’ve been working very closely together ever since.
“We’ve done a couple of London shows together of my DJ-ing nights where they provided visuals for the entire night and they were the ones who were encouraged by Leeds International Festival, asking if they wanted to do something, and this is an idea that Flat-e and I have been discussing ever since we began talking, this idea of some kind of immersive light structure/installation/performance. We didn’t know how to articulate fully what we wanted to do but this seemed like a great opportunity to do it with funding from the festival.
“It’s come together very quickly but I’m really excited to see it in situ and see what’s it’s going to be. We’ve had the idea for a long time so to finally see it come to fruition is really exciting for us.”
Avery will accompany Flat-e on the opening night on Thursday, performing his music live. After that, the installation will remain in place for the festival duration, until May 12.
“It’s amazing to be part of this festival in this building,” he said. “We have not done a dry-run together but the guys have been working flat out for several weeks now, being in there a lot, so they are very confident that it’s all going to come together. The exciting thing about it is they’ve taken the space and then built this installation around it, so it’s not just like they have a structure that they’re trying to shoehorn in. Everything about this piece has been built specifically with that space in mind, so it’s an installation that fits literally within the walls of this building, it’s going to be cool.”
For Avery, who has DJ-ed and performed around the world, this will be something of a first. “It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and I really like how this relationship with Flat-e has grown naturally and organically. This really does feel the next logical step for us to work directly together doing something new, so I’m really excited about it.”
He hopes this project with Flat-e will be part of an ongoing collaboration. “I feel this is the first of many – that’s how I like to see it. Like I said, we’ve been working towards this so I’d love to continue doing this.”
Avery’s 2018 album Song For Alpha was shaped by club culture, which has been very much part of his life for the past decade and a half. But it also explores darker, dustier spaces. “The DJ-ing/club/rave side of what I do that’s important to me, but also I’m keen to push this idea that my life doesn’t revolve around it fully. I think that album was me trying to find a space between the hectic life of the road, this non-stop late-night rave side of my character but then the opposing energy of the quiet space of my studio, my home, the real life. I think that album is me trying to find the comfortable space in between those two things.
It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and I really like how this relationship with Flat-e has grown naturally and organically. This really does feel the next logical step for us to work directly together doing something newDaniel Avery
“I love the club but I equally love those moments where you can take a breath away from it all. Both are equally important, so for me that album was trying to explore the two somehow and see how they can live together.”
At 32, he finds himself occasionally craving quieter room for reflection. “As much as I still love [clubbing] and it’s still important to me, there’s clearly a need in me to find space away from it all. This is not me bemoaning my life on the road, but it’s definitely become a necessity for me to find the quiet space too.”
In the five years between his first album, Drone Logic, and Song For Alpha, Avery found himself exposed to many different shades of music and environments. “My life changed drastically when Drone Logic came out,” he says. “It threw me head-first into that world, really. I loved it but everything changed very quickly so yes, on the one hand I was exposed to much more club music and different cultures internationally, and how those different cultures affect different styles of club music, it’s a fascinating insight into that world and I’m still very much learning about it, but at the same time to balance out that I’ve been increasingly interested in the worlds of drone music and ambient music – again, anything that can take you away from that non-stop kinetic energy of tour life.
“I’ve always been interested in that stuff but I think it’s really just come to the forefront of my mind, it’s become increasingly important to me.”
He’s become fascinated by experimenting, he says. “It’s nice to just get in my studio and see what comes out, really. That’s something that I’ve learnt to do. I think in my younger days I always knew what the finish line was and would sometimes get frustrated if I wasn’t making any progress. Nowadays, again maybe it’s just the result of getting slightly older and just having done it for a while, I’m much more open to the idea of going in with no plan whatsoever and almost letting the studio have a life of its own. That’s ultimately how Song For Alpha got finished was me learning to have some patience, taking a breath, taking a step back and letting the music breathe and have something of a life of its own. I’ve come to fully believe now that if you just have this positive relationship with it, it can lead you somewhere. You just have to go with it.”
Daniel Avery and Flat-e present Falling Light at the Corn Exchange, Leeds on Thursday May 2, from 8.30pm. For tickets, visit leedsinternationalfestival.com/event/falling-light/. The installation will then be open free of charge from May 3-12, from 9pm to midnight.