Moonbow: “The medium is always the message”

Integrative multidisciplinary artist and resolute prolific polymath – Eleanor Hardwick aka Moonbow – talks us through the songs that influenced the new record 8, alongside how practicing Tarot and remixologist documentarian Adam Curtis, helped shape its concept.

Released on Rye Wax’s West Friends (operated by FYI Chris and Tom Unlikely), BNND WDTH is the first single from the soon-to-come-album, featuring a remix by Toronto-based Discwoman affiliate Ciel. Watch the Matrix-inspired video, directed by Letty Fox, on Boiler Room’s 4:3 channel above.

 

There are not many artists who would schedule a release (“BNND WDTH”) for the day after their Glastonbury debut at Block9’s dystopian Genosys stage, but for Eleanor Hardwick this is all part of the restless creative journey. A gifted photographer and director in their own right, Moonbow is their sonic conceptually-led brainchild, birthed as a retaliation to the disposable, repetitive, and the ephemeral nature of modern society’s relationship to photography.

“I think in today’s digital landscape, where visual imagery predominantly resides on “newsfeed structured” platforms, the emotional impact of a single image has been watered down. […] Instagram’s format, pressures visual image-makers into becoming brand and content producers, and I hate it.”

For Eleanor, music somehow manages to keep its head above these murky waters, allowing them to communicate narratives far beyond the confines of visual art, create a sense of IRL community, and even possess a therapeutic and remedial nature. “I suffer from chronic pain/fatigue, and every day I have to take rest breaks where I just lay and listen to ambient music… and it literally heals me.”

Formed through an interest in – and experimentation with – loop pedals, samplers and synthesisers, the Moonbow project started through a friendship collaboration, with the music created from endless jams and ever-evolving live performances, shaping the debut EP Chiaroscuro and a year later Before Afterthoughts. 

After life took the duo in separate directions, Altering Ego (featuring Dream Wife’s Alice Go and Molly Soda) was Eleanor’s first solo producer track as Moonbow. In 2016, around the time they started DJ’ing, Eleanor joined SIREN collective, a group with the aim of making the electronic/dance/techno scene more diverse and accessible, by promoting the work of women non-binary and trans artists, as well as creating safe(r) spaces.

“We reject the commercialisation and sanitisation of nightlife, and aim to take as much of a grassroots approach as possible that honours the queer origins of dance music”

Experimenting with club format, the events hosted by the SIREN embrace a multimedia approach – alongside a monthly show on NTS, a zine and special projects such as The Shape of Sound, a video series collaboration with Somerset House – the collective also boast an impressive roster of DJs, including Moonbow.

“For me, the medium is always the message. Everything I make is focussed around conceptual narratives, and the medium is always a secondary choice that is determined by how to best communicate the story.”

Over the past three years, Eleanor has been working on their debut album 8, tying together the medias and mediums from separate projects into one harmonious and synaesthetic dialogue, allowing themselves to dive deeper into an idea. Released on 33-33 later this year, 8 takes the form of an LP, book and immersive website, and features collaborations with the likes of MX World, Sim Hutchins, Elliot Ardnt (Vanishing Twin), Cardinal Fang (Swim Deep) and Conrad Kira. The project also encapsulates a piece of prose that sits alongside each track, and a photography series in collaboration with Chrissie White, Clara Pathe and Justina Goldbeck.

“It’s a fantasy soundtrack for a post-global-warming narrative about the building of a new world within cyberspace, and then its inevitable destruction. Inspired by historically cyclical behaviour in Western politics, it deals with themes of eschatology, meta-ethics, cyberspace, ecology, colonialism and dualism”

Informed by the expansion of Moonbow’s DJ circuit, the new record is naturally more rhythm focussed and structurally free-formed than their previous work. Approaching the record as a body of work and treating it like a soundtrack, Eleanor has created an album that feels completely authentically their own; weaving in and out of varying sonic plains – from avant-pop to ambient soundscapes to faster tempos and more aggressive, glitchy beats.

Strongly believing in the ethos of living life with creative energy – even during the banality of everyday labour – Eleanor’s philosophy is to make oneself more connected, and life feel more magical. This is achieved through the practice of Tarot, a spiritual, political and creative tradition – that for Moonbow is deeply rooted in the interpretation of symbolism and narrative storytelling. It is a means of reflecting on life through a critical lens, a practice which is core to Eleanor’s aesthetic of what good art is. Not separating any of these creative energies, allows Moonbow’s output to flow together naturally; in the words of the artist “because it’s just me; exploring this thing called life” 

Perhaps the thing that ties all my different interests together is this love for constructing narratives to create meaning from the world. Adam Curtis does this in his documentaries, weaving facts together to create meaningful narratives that make sense of seeing chaotic political landscape. He was one of the largest influences for me when writing this album.”

 

Top 3 tracks that have influenced 8

Last Gasp ­- Holly Herndon

“I honestly had a lot of trouble choosing a track by Holly Herndon for this playlist, because so many of her tracks have influenced me. I chose Last Gasp because it combines her experimental and synthetic sound design within a more pop-focused format, and I love the menacing, dystopian beat. I also adore that she uses the most ancient of all instruments — the voice — to create an atmosphere that feels so futuristic. This track was also mixed by Marta Salogni, who mixed three of the tracks on my album.” 

 

Untamed Region – Jenny Hval

“Untamed Region by Jenny Hval features a sample from Adam Curtis’ film HyperNormalization. Curtis’ films hugely influenced the narrative of the record. I also remember reading that the sample was included as a comment on the parallels between capitalist desire and romantic desire, which is something else I was thinking a lot about on the album.”

 

Time As A Symptom – Joanna Newsom 

“I also want to mention a track that I couldn’t put on this playlist because it’s not on Spotify. Newsom is a harpist, so it’s of an entirely different sonic realm — but the album this track is from deals so much with this idea of the grand spinning wheel of life and its cycles. This is the final track of the album, and it then loops back into the first one, continuing the cycle all over again. It reminds me of The Fool’s Journey in tarot: every lesson in life is experienced and learned from, and everything ends, and then it starts all over again.”

Moonbow has curated us a Spotify playlist, to enjoy over the weekend. Have a listen here:

Moonbow’s don’t miss acts at Brainchild: Elsa Hewitt, duendita, Travis Alabanza, Sherelle, Fauzia and Josey Rebelle.

Catch Moonbow performing their hypnotic and dreamy live set at The Shack, Saturday daytime! 

Words: Rhys Baker
Photography: Agnessa Dale

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