Trent Halliday just drips sophistication. Coming straight outta’ Epping Forest, a place that “straddles the border between Greater London and Essex” (perk up those ears, English folk enthusiasts), his music is littered with with cinematic avant garde nuggets. Trent works as a solo artist and dons a darker alter-ego, Garth Brooks style, on in his other project, Three Days Dark. When working under his own name, Trent produces stripped down acoustic tracks, showing off a technical mastery even when playing within lowkey arrangements. He modestly describes his sound as a “heady, theatrical experience of sound and space”. He studied ethnomusicology, which for the laymen is the study of the music of different cultures, with his focus being on the non-Western variety. Halliday is stimulated by a plethora of artists such David Bowie, Brian Eno, Lou Reed, Can, Ashra, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, early Pink Floyd and Brian Wilson. This list highlights the diversity that encourages Trent to produce his provocative music.
When asked about his instrument of choice, Trent has the right answer with: “I mainly use a fender 72 telecaster custom through a Fender deluxe amp and a Takemine acoustic. I play fretted string instruments – guitar, bass, mandolin, ukulele, drum kit, and piano. That’s pretty much it, though on record I’ve also used bits of recorder, flute and violin, though I wouldn’t say can play them. I’m mainly and guitarist and singer. If it’s in the studio I’ll give it a go.”
He took time to answer some more of my inquiries. Here is what he had to say:
“My musical style feels like it varies from day to day, but it’s generally detailed, heady folk/rock with neo-classical and progressive aspirations. Velvet Underground – Loaded. A great album. I tend to mix up the way I go about writing; I find you get different results if you approach it differently. I often write songs with the guitar and then arrange them, but sometimes I build a whole track in the studio and find the song on top of that. With this instrumental album, I tended to record a small repeating musical idea on one instrument, and then expand it with layers of other instruments until it was full. I didn’t use any loops for this, so each layer is a complete performance. I live in the Essex countryside surrounded by trees. It feels quite isolated, though I’m only like 10min from suburbia and about 30min from London. I suppose a lot of my writing is quite pastoral, but I like lots of angular layers and busy textures. It’s hard to say exactly how environment and weather effects my music, but there’s no doubt that it does. Growing up I just loved all the arts. They were magical and a bit of a mystery. I couldn’t understand how people made these amazing things that could change my whole feeling about the world and myself. I really wanted to learn how to do that. My first instrument was the guitar and I’ve spent most of my time learning music through it, so I consider myself a guitarist more than anything else.
I love to work with other people, but at the moment I’m mainly do it all solo. It’s not always ideal, just because it’s really demanding to write and perform on all these different instruments, as well as record and mix and all of that. It’s also nice to be able to bounce ideas off of others and they always come up with things you’d never have thought of.”
His first full length album, Moon Thing, consisted of elegantly titled tracks like “The Horse at Water” and “Owl in Ivy”. His erudite vocal style is like baroque architecture plunked into the middle of a sea of quickly designed suburban condos. The follow up, Paper Lights, comes stocked with mellifluous, gorgeous, ethereal tracks from front to back. Here is what he had to say when I asked him to tell me a bit about his latest release and the cinematic aspects to many of the intriguing tracks.
“Thanks Tina. Glad you liked it. Yes, def. cinematic. I don’t know if any films or books specifically find their way into the music. There are lots of film scores that I really like but they’re not necessarily in a genre I work with. Having said that, I like Mark Mothersbaugh’s score for Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom alot. Also old electronic scores from 70s/80s films like Big Trouble Little China and Blade Runner. There are tons of great film scores. I like that they have really different structures to songs or even traditonal classical pieces. They’re structured to fit narrative, motion and emotion, so really different things happen musically.”
The album has a refreshingly minimalist take on orchestral-folk, with lots of acoustic instrumentation and some electronic touches. Most of the tracks were experiments in overlaying short, repeating musical motifs in different time cycles, and the results are often hypnotic, polyrhythmic, and reminiscent of traditional ‘world’ music; at times, it’s almost a ‘live’ electronic sound. Trent confirms: “I was greatly influenced by early ‘minimalist’ composers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich and John Cage, as well as some of the instrumental work of musicians like Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, and Sufjan Stevens.”
To get a flavour of the album you might like to start with “Standing on the Back of a Whale” which was released as a single on Oct 11th, or perhaps “Shallows” which is a little more electronic orientated.
“I am happy to live on the outside,” he says, and his love of nature and his surrounding homeland shows up in the essence of his music. On Paper Lights the song titles alone tend to hint at cultivated, ethereal offerings. Consider “Samaras Falling, Dusk”, “A Brief History of Snow”, and”The Animal Orchestra”. “Rainmaker” opens with the pluck and circumstance of a ukulele. The stellar arrangements of these instrumental tracks showcase Trent’s ability to manipulate a wide variety of sounds. They bleed with hypnotic genre bending spiciness. Some of the tracks are perfect music for a foggy Sunday morning while others offer a brighter, more universal pastiche. A cinematic sound is evident in all of the tracks, but most explicitly on “By the Edge of an Orange Sea”. “Where are We Now” glistens with beautiful Spanish guitar playing up against a plethora of other heady sounds. Although minimalist in presentation, these songs saturate from every angle.
If you desire eclectic-based songs laced with sophisticated guitar playing, then check out Paper Lights. Support a gem of a musician like Trent Halliday. Also do check out his other project, Three Days Dark.
You can stream the entire album on soundcloud through this private link… https://soundcloud.com/trent-halliday/sets/paper-lights/s-TZjGt … If you would rather download the album you can do so by entering code: k72f-yech
Fun fact: I once ate three boxes of Jaffa cakes (a kind of squidgy orange cakey biscuit) in a row, and I’ve never been able to eat them since.