Sound Design

Dreamlands: Margate to Coney Island via Absynth

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Margate is in vogue for weekend breaking Londoners, but if it’s anything like Dreamlands’ sexually charged vision of the future you may want to take the kids to Southend instead. When director Sara Dunlop of Rattling Stick, asked us to get involved with her passion project Dreamlands, knowing how ace Sara’s work is we were über excited to get involved.

Forgotten your costume? You’re not going to need it buddy…

Set in Margate in the not too distant future, Dreamlands is a love story in an unsettling new world of aggressive sexual promiscuity. It soon becomes clear that our protagonist ‘Pixie’ (Emma Appleton) although maintaining teenage bravado, finds that in a new sexually desensitised world, she is searching for something else.

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Waaaariors… Come out to play… (synthesisers…)

A starting point sound reference was the 80’s classic The Warriors. The desolate backdrop of a derelict Coney Island, draws obvious aesthetic parallels with Margate, although ended up closer to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in terms of it’s tonal bleakness.

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We set about created an uneasy, verging on surreal seaside atmosphere. Subtly providing context and helping drive the narrative, without distracting the audience focus from the dialogue. [email protected], provided some awesome synthesised seagulls and filtered waves that were mixed with modulating winds and groaning ship horns, to help add extra layers to the dialogue on screen. The mixture of artificial and real helped the atmosphere stylistically fit with the dreamlike quality of the score. We initially toyed with idea of there being audio cues in the background giving hints at the time period, leaking through different devices such as the radio in the café scene, but ultimately we felt it would complicate what is in essence a love story. To have signposted this would be to remove another layer of the audience trying to make sense of what is happening, holding back some information I feel adds to it’s unsettling nature. This was also the case with background sounds at the beach, we tried to reflect Pixie’s emotional journey, with howling winds and oppressive rumbling of the sea representing her turmoil.

Here is an example of some of the sounds bedded into the beach scene, with sound generation from Spectrasonic’s Ominsphere and Native Instruments Absynth.

What’s the score…?


The score was provided by the awesome DARKSTAR from Warp Records. The dream sequences are where the score really takes hold, engulfing the audience in DARKSTAR’s, world of harmonically complex layers and create a counterpoint to the visceral cold reality of the Dreamlands world. Being friends of Sara’s there was a great deal of trust already, which allowed us to have more freedom with how the musical elements of the sound design interacted with the instruments and merged into one.

Thanks to Sara and Ellie at Rattling Stick, super glad to have worked on this, go to  to check out the trailer, looking forward to seeing it in the festivals!

Alex Bingham, String and Tins