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Premiere: Phil Kieran ‘Light Through Trees’

Belfast's Phil Kieran explores the relationship between nature and technology, and intuitive composition processes, on his new album, 'The Strand Cinema'

Phil Kieran in a black and white stripy t-short and cardigan leaning against a red surface

Phil Kieran will release his new album project, ‘The Strand Cinema’, this week. Listen to ‘Light Through Trees’ below. 

The Northern Irish techno legend, who last year produced the soundtrack to the crime thriller film, Nightride, continues his pursuits in sonic worldbuilding with this new 10-track suite. The album responds directly to the influence of his studio space, which is housed within Belfast’s oldest cinema, The Strand, an art deco building which first opened its doors in 1935. In it, Kieran sculpts cinematic soundscapes that exist as much in the ambient and contemporary classical worlds as they do in that of pulsating electronica. 

It’s a palette he recently explored in his soundtrack for the BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Northern Bank Job, and the stage play, Belfast Boy. Speaking about score composition, and writing music for consumption outside the club, Kieran said: “It’s really opened my mind to thinking very three - dimensionally about sound.”

Work on the album began in 2020, in peak lockdown, while Kieran was spending his days alone in the empty studio/cinema building. “There was this weird feeling, this sort of eerie, beautiful emptiness,” he said of the time, during which he worked intuitively and allowed whatever music came to him to take the wheel. “I promised myself I would go in and just say right, ‘what am I feeling in this moment?’ To literally be like a tuning fork and ask: What's in my chest? If I were to describe what's inside me, and what's going on in the outside world, If I had to score that in a film, what would it sound like right now? I guess I sort of soundtracked my own life.”

The results are superb: a lush blend of the organic and synthetic, of the pensive and gently propulsive. Kieran explores the relationship between nature and technology, balancing gorgeous strings with chiming keys, and wordless vocals with thick, patient beats. 

For each track on the album, Kieran commissioned 11 artists working in the fields of film, animation, advertising, architecture, computer science and dance to create an accompanying visual work. Each of these pieces came together as part of a special album launch event which took place in The Stand on 4th March. You can watch the video for ‘Light Through Trees’, created by visual artist Pauric Freeman, below. 

'The Strand Cinema' lands this Friday 24th March. Pre-order it here. 

Of course, Kieran hasn’t abandoned the dancefloor entirely. Last year, he released a collaborative track with Chicago legend Green Velvet, titled ‘Enjoy The Day’