From a 'pickaxe hi-hat' to a 'dynamite kick drum', evocative sounds of a lost industry in East Durham have been used to create a digital drum kit where anyone can create their own track with a 16 bar sequencer, first by laying down a drum beat.
Created under lockdown by artist Jamie Holman and creative producer Alex Zawadzki of Uncultured Creatives, Above Below Beyond is an online music-making experience, using illustration, graphics and samples from mining industries blended with a hint of acid house.
It's a British story reimagined, with a contemporary twist to connect us with the history of mining closures in the North of England, its cultural impact on young people and the illegal rave scene that inspired in the aftermath, 30 years on.
As you launch the website, you're invited to explore further down the mine, dropping virtually further into the ground. Moving the cursor that imitates a miners headlamp creates a partial digital reveal as the headlamp illuminates areas of a historic mining image; while the dual purpose of creating a synth layer to the track.
The higher the torchlight shines the higher the note, with low tones revealed as the bottom parts of the image are swiped. As you drop further "into the mineshaft", you add a final layer of Acid House stabs and samples from the still revered Roland 808 and 303 machines to your sound loop to create a melody.
The project for East Durham Creates follows Holman's earlier work, Flashback, an archive that captures the memories of the rave party scene in Blackburn.
"Durham is still feeling the impact of its mines closures across its economy and identity," says Holman. "One of the common bonding experiences across the people we worked with in Durham's was music. We made three pieces of music about Durham's identity through music and poetry – think Kate Tempest or The Streets. Creating a music-making experience allows them to keep experimenting and making noise at home and for free."
Working with designers, Made by Mason and website developers, Lighten, the website is an innovative, visual, and fun approach creating your music tracks. A lighter touch than existing music workstations such as Garage Band, it also allows you to dip your toe into music-making before taking on the challenge of learning more complex software.
The team worked with open-source API, exploring Google Chrome Experiments and applying a customised design to create a unique visual experience, with animated illustrations created by Nelson Illustrates – recently awarded a D&AD 2020 Newblood One to Watch award.
"The visuals and sounds are designed around mining heritage history with references to the descent into the mine, the darkness and depth, the clanking imposing noises, sweeping lights and a nod towards the colours of mining banners; all with a contemporary feel to make heritage engaging for young people," says producer Alex Zawadzki.
Chris Mason adds: "We created a simple typographic headline that appears from Above, Below and Beyond. A bold colour palette reflects the strands of the project and used the illustrative style of Daniel Nelson to bring the experience to life. All the elements combine to create an intuitive descent of discovery, where you can make noise, build beats and share your creation.
"To concept and build a noise/music-making experience from scratch was fun whereas, building a visual identity that mashed mining with acid house together was more of a challenge. The outcome is a simple logotype where the font is influenced by mining health and safety signage combined with a bold colour pallet and hands-on illustrative style creating an accessible feel to the experience."
To make your own tracks and find out more visit www.abovebelowbeyond.org.