U.K.-based, experimental producer Desert Sand Feels Warm at Night, aka William Hallworth-Cook, is one of those enigmatic individuals whose genuineness and humanity are apparent from their music, but for whom all additional information about them is obscured. From what we can gather, William has been releasing albums under various names and within the divergent channels of vaporware and ambient music since 2018. Despite having only been in the business of making records for a couple of years, he’s already amassed a sizable catalog of transportive, dreamy album-length interludes and liminal divergences.
William’s latest release, 新世界の弟子たち, or New World Disciples, borrows through the fabric of modernity to create escape hatches through which we may encounter the divine. Through enveloping folds of intangible sound, we are lead on a journey through the wilderness of the man-made world, into primordial sand drifts beyond time and space, where momentum has no meaning and entropy is deactivate by a flood of potentiality. 新世界の弟子たち is about discovering paradise, and listening to it may be the closest you’ll get to finding it in this lifetime, or any other.
Obviously, when I had the chance to interview someone of William’s vision, I could hardly pass it up. You can buy and stream 新世界の弟子たち below via Bandcamp, and then keep scrolling to read our complete interview with the mastermind of the project.
Interview conducted via email on July 3, 2021. It has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
How long have you been working on music with desert sand feels warm at night?
I’ve been making music as desert sand feels warm at night for almost three years, started in September 2018.
What drew you to vaporwave and made you want to work in this style?
My first encounter with vaporwave was through my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist on Spotify. About six years ago, I began learning Mandarin Chinese, and since I was also studying music and a keen listener of new genres, I began listening to 80s/90s C-pop to help. This eventually extended to J-pop and city pop, and Spotify seemed to link the Japanese characters together which lead to a t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 being shown in the playlist.
As soon as I listened to it, I fell in love with it, and then began to listen to slushwave and other vaporwave subgenres, and after listening to a few more albums, I was absolutely hooked. I was already in love with ambient music, and so I really wanted to work within the Slushwave subgenre because it was what I already enjoyed most, and also what I was most familiar with given my entry into Vaporwave.
In your own words, how does desert sand feels warm at night expand on the vaporwave lexicon?
I like to create atmospheric, light, and warm-sounding, ambient soundscapes, by expanding on thick textures, gliding, melodic lines, and a blend of layers within a track that really entrances the listener.
Do you see vaporwave on the whole problematizing nostalgia or simply reflecting it?
The ordeal with nostalgia when listening to vaporwave is a very interesting discussion. A lot of the younger listeners have a compelling and unknown nostalgia towards a time that they weren’t even born in, and I think it’s fair to say that Vaporwave evokes some really strong feelings in everyone, and for some, it is nostalgia. For many cases, it is simply reflecting it, and I’m sure that some vaporwave albums are not made with the intent to cause nostalgic feelings. It’s just one of the many moods that are conveyed in the genre.
How much does Japanese city pop inform your aesthetic? Do you have any favorites in this genre?
I enjoy Japanese city pop a lot; however, a lot of my aesthetic is inspired by Chinese pop from that same period. Some of my favorite Japanese albums are Difference by Kenjiro Sakiya, 終楽章 by Hiroko Yakushimaru, Another Summer by S. Kiyotaka & The Omega Tribe, and Free Drink by JADOES.
Why do you think vaporwave is still relevant ten years on from Floral Shoppe?
The expansion of the subgenres and pushing the boundaries to create exciting and refreshing albums. The community is still driven by this, and some of the current albums that are coming out have fantastic, unique sounds that still excite the community. And within this tight-knit community is an unanimous notion to love and support new and upcoming artists, and it’s this love that gives determination and drives creativity. Vaporwave is far from irrelevance.
How does 新世界の弟子たち differ from your previous efforts?
I think that the most prominent element in 新世界の弟子たち that differs from my other albums is the darker tones that I apply throughout. Minor and diminished chords, dark and industrial sounds, small dissonances, and use of harsher instruments are all much more present in this album than any other, and really solidifies the theme of a dark, dull world with cinematic elements in later stages of the album as the listener discovers the ‘New World’, with track seven being a climax of hope and happiness.
How did you get connected with Needlejuice?
In 2019, Needlejuice contacted me first saying they would love to release one of my dreampunk albums, Tomorrow and 2096, on vinyl, which I was already planning to do with another label, Asura Revolver. After discussing the logistics of it, we decided to collaborate with Needlejuice providing U.S. distribution, and Asura Revolver providing EU distribution. For 新世界の弟子たち, I had always wanted to do another vinyl with them, and they were as thrilled as me to release another album on vinyl!
Can you tell us where some of the samples for this project came from? Were there any samples that worked better than you expected to achieve a desired effect?
I can’t really answer these two questions, as there were no samples used in this album; it’s sample-free! All original music composed, performed, and produced by me, including vocals! However, when making the music, I was inspired by a lot of the ’80s/’90s Chinese pop that I have been listening to for a few years, and much of the instrumentation in my pieces are similar to the samples used in some of my sample-based albums.
What are you attempting to say about the nature of work and our relationship to technology in the video for “彼はここにいる”?
The content of the music video wasn’t actually decided by me—I gave the animator free reign over what the video contained; I just gave a description of the story of the album: “This album overall conveys a journey of dedicated people, perhaps they are looking for solace, perhaps just looking for a fresh start. I had always thought of this as like a rebirth of a person when they leave a dull, dilapidated world and enter a new, colorful, vibrant and friendly world. They do it in secrecy and try to follow others doing the same, but their minds keep straying between thoughts of whether this new world is for them. In the end they decide to go to the new world, and discover that it is like a paradise. The people there are not necessarily religious, but unanimous in their good thoughts and bright ideas.”
Can we expect future videos for this project?
There are none planned at the moment, but it would definitely be cool to work on more!
What is a good environment to enjoy 新世界の弟子たち in?
Somewhere calm, somewhere warm. Somewhere where you don’t have to focus on your surroundings, and you can easily get lost in the album, enhancing the story and atmosphere.
What is the right mood to be in when you press play on 新世界の弟子たち?
I don’t think there is a ‘right mood’ to be honest! I have had people say they play this when they’re upset, happy, tired, anxious, excited. I think the best thing to do is listen to the album when you are feeling neutral, and then decide how it makes you feel, and then to listen to it when you want to feel that particular feeling.
As a society, do you feel like we’re making progress towards a better future, or do you think we’re stuck in a loop, like we’re aimlessly circling a dried-up water fountain at soon to be condemned suburban mall?
There are always going to be progress and recessions in the future; some things for the better; some things for the worse. Only time will tell!
What’s your favorite flavor of vape?
Personally, I don’t vape or smoke, but I love fruity flavors, so it would most likely be something fruity or sweet.