02.07 -

Dystopian Thinking

is No Longer


Nexcyia  new work  [a VIRTUALLYREALITY commission]

Rowland Hill  Do you think you're better off alone?

Decolonising the DAW      Khyam Allami in conversation with Sam Salem and Sarah Badr

Odete  a letter to the spirits

Emmett Williams  Cellar Song for Five Voices     reinterpretation by SHOAL and Laura Ibáñez

The future must not be in ruins. If we listen and learn from the hauntings of the past, we can change our course of direction and live on new terrains. Utopian thinking and speculative futurism - particularly in club spaces - play vital roles in antagonising the present and building triumphant futures.


Utopias often exist tantalisingly outside of our own time. Nexcyia's Afrofuturist suboceanics ring out over the myth of Drexcyia in a new audiovisual work for VIRTUALLYREALITY centering family memories and times-that-were. Also reaching into club music histories is Rowland Hill in her performative DJ-lecture ‘Do you think you're better off alone?’, bringing fervently into focus the political hedonism of the 90s in stark relation to the current post-Brexit UK/EU landscape.


image by Rowland Hill

Concurrent utopias can of course exist, but space must be carved out for them to take shape. For example, the workstations of electronic music have always been coded in the benefit of Western music tuning systems. As counteraction, Khyam Allami presents his browser-based DAWs Leimma and Apotome, decolonising microtonality in conversation with composer and co-director of ensemble Distractfold Sam Salem and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Badr (FRKTL).

Screen Shot 2021-04-24 at 18.23.44.png


still from Odete's 'a letter to the spirits'

Thinking utopias equals thinking freedom, boundlessness and security. Odete’s audiovisual mixtape ‘a letter to the spirits’, sees her crafting her own rave-adjacent mythos in a transportative, nurturing wasteland. Manchester ensemble and VIRTUALLYREALITY mainstays SHOAL prepare a new digital version of a classic Emmett Williams text-score ‘Cellar Song for Five Voices’. With AI-developer Laura Ibáñez, SHOAL give the dystopian dataset-like poem new life free from language, place and bodies.
* a reference to the iconic Detroit techno label Drexcyia, whose trademark visual language by Abdul Qadim Haqq imagined a civilisation of warrior-like, mer-like Africans populating the Atlantic seabed as ancestors of those lost overboard during the Atlantic slave trade.

Khyam Allami is an Iraqi-British multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, researcher and founder of Nawa Recordings. Primarily an Oud player, his artistic research focuses on the development of contemporary and experimental practice based on the fundamentals of Arabic music, with a focus on tuning and microtonality.



Sarah Badr (FRKTL) is a British-Egyptian interdisciplinary artist. A classically trained multi-instrumentalist, she works with live sampling and improvisation, vocal manipulation, field recordings and generative rhythms to compose intensely emotive and immersive explorations of sound. Her compositional approach blends disparate styles seamlessly, challenging preconceptions of both musical traditions and geography.


Rowland Hill is an artist based in Manchester. She makes films, performances, live events and sound based work. In 2018 she graduated from The Slade School of Fine Art, where she received the Clare Winsten Memorial Award.


Laura Ibáñez is a graduate in Electronics Engineering (UPC) and Music (ESMUC), currently working as a Machine Learning Engineer in the Berlin music tech startup Pixtunes. She is specializing in Machine Learning with a special focus on Sound and Visual Arts, and has participated in related activities such as the Ars Electronica 2020 AlxMusic Online Hackathod and developed projects with artists and collectives as well as her own.


Nexciya is an African-American/French sound artist and experimental ambient musician based in London and Paris. Working with found sound, Nexcyia weaves together harsh sound design and swooping soundscapes into works that bridge many moods, emotions and places through noise, granular synthesis, textures and rhythms. His fine art practice focuses on the notions of alienation and otherness in the African-American experience and explores this through sculpture, installation, painting, sound and moving image.



Sam Salem is a British / Jordanian composer who creates works for performers, electronics & video. He is a founding member and co-artistic director of Distractfold Ensemble and is currently PRiSM Lecturer in Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music. He was once described by the New York Times as “young”. 



SHOAL are a physical performance, new music, multimedia and experimental ensemble who specialise in creating immersive experiences. With a particular interest in improvisation and interdisciplinary collaboration, SHOAL work with a variety of artists to commission and develop new works experimenting with sound, electronics, digital technology, light, space and movement.



Odete works between the field of writing, music, performance and visual arts - her work is explicitly autobiographic, making clear the border between the personal and politics. She describes her music as a sensorial theory for a weary girlhood - a ghost warrior that becomes visible through mixing. Through transitioning.



Emmett Williams (4 April 1925 – 14 February 2007) was an American poet and visual artist.