Falling Gemstones And Broken Hearts
Hannah Diamond performs ‘Fade Away’ with immersive visuals by collaborator Daniel Swan
“It’s like we operate in the same world, but his is the harder, more extreme version,” says pop star Hannah Diamond, comparing her airbrushed aesthetic to the corrupted grit of multimedia artist Daniel Swan. “There are elements of my world that are feminine and soft, but he brings a darkness to it.” Their audiovisual collaboration on ‘Fade Away’, a trance-powered break-up song from her 2019 album Reflections, brings together multiple elements of the pop universe she’s been building since her debut single in 2013. Performing on a platform surrounded by double-sided projection screens, the PC Music artist is framed on every side by falling gemstones, jewel-coloured make-up palettes, silver logos and stills from her old videos.
Hannah’s existing artwork and videos served as mood boards for Daniel to play around with and rebuild, and the resulting four-wall collage hints at the shadows lurking under her experiments in hyper-femininity. “That was why I was keen to work with him on ‘Invisible’,” she says, “because there’s darkness that people don’t always take in when they think about my music. Lyrically, my album does dive into some dark places if you really get into the layers of it.” It’s not all baby-pink and “candyfloss” and “all those gross words that people use to describe my music,” she laughs.
The London-based duo first worked together on the video for Hannah’s single ‘Invisible’, with Daniel building “an entire 3D alternate reality” for the song to exist inside — but they’ve known each other for the best part of a decade already. “There’s a continuous dialogue between us as friends. He gets me,” says Hannah. Having already created a batch of visuals for her touring show, this time Daniel spliced it all together to create a world based on “all the imagery and mythology of her past digital selves,” aiming “to hover somewhere in between a future 'real' world and a fantasy.”
“Hannah is full of ideas, visually and thematically, and is constantly looking for the best ways to tweak something,” adds the designer, whose 3D collages have also powered videos by Jam City, Rustie and Evian Christ. “We both have strong ideas of what we like and want to achieve visually – for instance, Hannah brings an encyclopaedic knowledge of ‘00s fashion and fashion photography, which shapes the environments and objects we populate her world with.”
In a live setting, the singer usually performs over a mix or a backing track triggered by her DJ. “My music is a pop performance, so it’s about my voice and my body — I use those two things to communicate my songs, my feelings,” Hannah explains. “It’s more about the fashions, the look!” (For this performance, she picked out a cheerleader-inspired Mimi Wade dress and platform moon boots.) But by breaking down ‘Fade Away’ into separate stems and loading them into the Launchpad Pro, she found a way to experiment with a more spontaneous performance, putting herself at the centre of the action.
Having quickly grasped the basics, Hannah senses possibilities for the Launchpad in the studio as well as live, potentially using the grid as a sketchpad and a writing tool. “I’m a lyricist and a singer, and I come up with my top-line melodies – but when it comes to instrumentals I do rely on collaborators. So this would help me to sketch things out without having to master Ableton or Logic,” she says. Her self-made pop persona already challenges preconceived notions about artistic ownership and image making, as well as the gendered division of labour between the stage and the studio. Equipping herself with more powerful tools is an obvious next step. “One thing that’s important, as a woman, is being in control of what you’re doing,” she points out, “and having the resources around you that enable you to do it the best.”
Words: Chal Ravens