Will Gardner


Image of Will Gardner - Remains
Record Label
Castles In Space

About this item

"Remains" is the debut album from composer and sound artist Will Gardner.

Will has worked extensively behind the scenes as an arranger, orchestrator and pianist in both Berlin and London, arranging strings for alt-J, Daughter, Låpsley and Madness. This debut solo work explores the experience of caring for his father through the final stages of Parkinson’s dementia.

The album is both an aural imagining of the dementia experience (it’s memory slippages, disturbances, delusions and paranoias) and also a deeply personal account of grieving for a parent, and what it means to grieve for someone who is still alive.

The composition process started after Will began reading from his Dad’s personal diaries which stretched back over twenty years. The exploration of memory through music is a constant thread throughout the album.

“I became quite preoccupied with the idea of memory whilst reading the diaries and caring for my Dad (who’s own memory was faltering). I was thinking about where memories belong, who do they belong to, what does it mean to ‘share’ a memory, and where do they go, shared or otherwise, if they are ‘lost’?”

Will began to compose themes using extracts from his dad’s diaries. Fragments of the text were used to derive the rhythms and melodies on which the tracks are built. Through this process, a sort of translation occurred: the immediate meaning became lost, but an imprint of it remained within the music.

The old family piano keeps returning as a presence throughout Remains - a seared memory alongside strings, voices and other indiscernible textures, often altered and disfigured through digital effect chains. Ideas repeat themselves. Moments of clarity fall away into fog; sounds glitch in and out of focus and are distorted almost beyond recognition. Signals of separate audio chains influence each other, morphing together in an uncanny conversation - mirroring the deterioration and disorientation brought on by the disease.

Despite the gloom, however, there is a softness that underpins these nightmares. “Whilst trying to capture this dark and incoherent internal world that my Dad was experiencing, I noticed that I kept returning, somewhat counter-intuivately, to quite delicate, soft sounds. I realised that these sounds were like seeing my own reflection emerge within the work - my own sense of concern for what he was going through and my own grief for what was being lost day by day."

"Remains" deals with a raw, complex subject from multiple angles, slipping back and forth between Will’s own perspective and the imagined perspective of his father.

Growing up in the Fens, East Anglia, Will’s early life was steeped in classical music. His earliest musical experiences were singing as a chorister in Ely Cathedral and he went on to study classical music at Cambridge, and obtain a piano diploma from the Royal School of Music.

On graduating, Will moved to Berlin and spent a number of years working for composer Jonathan Bepler on Matthew Barney’s experimental operatic film "River of Fundament". It was here that he began to explore electronic music and sound design for the first time.

Will moved to London in 2016, where he established himself as an in-demand musician, working across a variety of different genres and practices. In 2021 he wrote and conducted the arrangements on alt-J’s fourth studio album The Dream, and in 2019 was commissioned by Låpsley to write a collection of works in response to her second album "Through Water", to be played on her European Tour. He has also written arrangements for Daughter (Rough Trade 2023), HMLTD’s "The Worm" (2023). His film and TV orchestrations can be heard in Sky Atlantic's "Tin Star" (2017), "Oceans Eight" (2018), and BAFTA-nominated "Blue Jean" (2022).

All of this collaborative experience across multiple genres plays a significant part informing Will’s own sound. Comfortable in both studio and concert hall, he demonstrates a wide variety of creative techniques from both classical and electronic music traditions.

"Remains" is the work of a skilled and experienced practioner that is both fragile and powerful at the same time. It's an album that stays with you long after the needle has been lifted and ironically, lives long in the memory.

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