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[Premiere] Float Over a Digital Desert in Helios' Interactive Album, 'Yume'

'Yume' is a fantastical journey into music, designed by Luke Twyman for Helios.
October 1, 2015, 4:30pm

If an ambient, dream-like state inspires you to different pleasurable planes of existence, then the interactive version of Helios’ latest album, Yume, will surely woo you. The gentle journey was created by digital artist WhiteVinyl, a.k.a., Luke Twyman, whose works are simple constructions imbued with whimsy through graphic design, illustration, and web/interactive design.

In Yume, the user can travel through different environments from starry peaks to ruins. The landscapes feel like futuristic canyons in a neo-New Mexican desert. Yet, Helios named the album Yume, after the Japanese word for dream. Between Twyman’s floating cells and Helios' luminous guitar lines, Yume’s elemental sound and feel is a relaxing but energetic musical experience where one can travel away from the realities of laptop life and into picturesque fields.

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The Creators Project caught up with the Brighton-based Twyman and asked him a few questions about creating an interactive experience for somebody else’s music, and about the formalities of creative programming.

The Creators Project: How did your collaboration with Helios come about?

Luke Twyman: I worked on a project for Keith in 2011, I built a simple flash-based audio/visual interactive to help promote For Nihon—a benefit album he and his wife Hollie put together involving a large number of ambient artists, with sales going to aid the tsunami in Japan.

The piece uses a simple algorithm to generate an unending tune, which you can then add to by playing the contributing artists' names like a harp/piano.

How did you pair your illustrations/creative programming to the music of Helios for Yume?

I think my starting point was to think of it in terms of interaction. How to give visitors control over lots of musical elements without it becoming just like a soundboard, with lots of buttons on one screen. From there it became the idea of these tactile controllers and the different scenes, rewarding people for exploring, and at the same time ensuring it's not just an A-to-B experience—people have freedom to move backwards and forth.

I also worked in a little Javascript color experiment I'd been playing with, allowing me to fluidly transition between different color balances of the palette it uses. Alongside samples from Helios, it uses the Web Audio API to add several synths (some drones, some random arpeggios) and other effects allowing visitors control over the sounds.

I spent time making sure everything felt appropriate for Helios, that emotive sparseness is part of how I interpret the music. I kept to this simple visual style focusing on graphic elements, plus the mood of each scene and the transitions between them.

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Tell us your version of creative programming.

I started out making small video games as a hobby, before I moved into design and interactive work for web. So I think a lot of ideas from that carry over into my current work—particularly with creating interaction which can be playful and rewards exploration, and treating visuals as environments.

I'm not code-centric; I put a lot of focus on the concept, and think very visually about bringing it to life, and my programming style reflects that. I make a lot of sketches and I'll find myself putting a lot of time into fine-tuning specific bits of code to create the right kind of movement, visuals, sound or mood that I'm after.

Much of your work contains sparseness and the feeling of being solitary. Can you speak to that?

Yeah, creating moody or dreamy environments definitely appeals to me, and it's always interesting and rewarding to see people have an emotional response to something which is often very simplistic, or with few ingredients. I'm not entirely sure why sparseness in particular appeals to me, but I think it helps create the feeling of a bigger world/universe than simply what you're showing on screen/paper. It presents itself as an existential vibe, both directly looking at the scale of time and where we sit within it.

You can check the interactive Yume here, and listen to Helios on Souncloud here.

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