Luminous [The Telegraph], monolithic [Bach Track], and emotionally powerful [Seen and Heard], Daniel Elms’ distinctive voice in 21st-century music unashamedly obscures the distinctions between composer and producer; between classical and eclecticism.
A line can be traced from a youth spent compiling mix tapes of classical, grunge, and electronic recordings to Elms’ eclectic sonic and conceptual language. In 2022, his symphonic work Consolations in Travel, commissioned by the BBC Concert Orchestra, premiered at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and was broadcast on a special edition of BBC Radio 3’s Unclassified Live. This work is defining of Elms’ voice: the orchestra is brought into dialogue with loops cut from the cassette compilations made by Elms as a teenager. The music is distinctly 21st century, but coloured, mediated and expanded by technology; informed yet heartfelt.
Elms’ prominence as a “post-genre” artist emerged with his first album Islandia, released in 2019 on Brooklyn-based label New Amsterdam Records. Islandia is a remarkable set of five works for chamber orchestra, electric guitar, synthesisers and found sounds that was completed by Elms ‘playing’ the studio (Abbey Road) as an additional instrument. Works from the album, including
Soft Machines and North Sea Quartet, have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Unclassified, Night Tracks, and In Tune, and the album topped Apple Music’s classical playlist.
In 2019, Elms toured Islandia across the UK alongside long-term collaborators Manchester Collective, who commissioned Elms’ visceral 100 Demons (“…it was spectacular, but God it shook us.”), and most recently hosted Elms and choreographer Alexander Whitley’s collaboration The Age of Spiritual Machines: a piece in which the two artists stripped away the technology regularly employed by each, to reveal the soft tissue of movement and music beneath, irreversibly altered by its past interactions with electronic and mechanical devices
Another work from Elms’ debut album, Bethia was originally commissioned by the British Film Institute as part of Hull City of Culture 2017 and PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial. It is a work that contains and embodies the history and atmosphere of Elms’ hometown of Hull: fragments of maritime shanties, work songs and hymns are set within a tidal wash of tone clusters and shimmering electronics that swell and subside with the shriek of gulls and the pealing of Hull Minster’s bells.
Elms is not bound to the concert hall and its traditions, and his diverse musicality has been employed across the spectrum of music: music producer on Robert Eggers’ 2022 feature filmThe Northman for Robin Carolan (Triangle Records) and Sebastian Gainsborough (Vessel); producer, mixer and recording engineer of doom metal band Blind Monarch’s debut album; composer of additional music for Ridley Scott’s Taboo, which was Emmy-nominated for best score; Elms has also lent his technical abilities in the recording, production and editing to HBO’s My Brilliant Friend, the Academy-Award nominated Never Look Away, J.J. Abrams’ 11.22.63, and the captivating Promise at dawn.