William Hallworth-Cook, professionally known as desert sand feels warm at night, is a vaporwave artist and producer, as well as a key figure in the modern slushwave scene. Since late 2018, the luscious soundscapes and dreamy atmospheres have captured major attention form both slush and ambient fans alike, with many feeling deeply attached to the music on both an emotional and spiritual level.
Prior to 2018, William had been making small side projects, mostly for fun, exploring deep house and trance genres. This led him to discover new age and ambient music, and delve deep into the realm of vaporwave and dreampunk. After experimenting with some classic style vaporwave in late 2018, William began to formulate his iconic sound with his 2019 album 囚人 [Prisoner].
The album explores the idea of loneliness, dysphoria and feelings of being trapped within oneself. The long runtime, like most slushwave albums, allows the listener to get completely lost within their own mind and causes moments of deep reflection, nostalgia and mental exploration. The heavy bass really touches the soul throughout this album, particularly in the last track ‘出る’ [to leave], which is 23 minutes of pure bliss; voices soaring over a deserted landscape.
Album link: https://desertsand.bandcamp.com/album/–3
“I often think the best way to connect with any of my albums is to embrace the feelings and thoughts that come to you. Don’t be afraid to explore some of the more unusual senses – music is one of the few mediums we have that can allow this. Whilst there are themes in many of my albums, I am always intrigued to hear the unique personal connections people find when listening to them, and sometimes it’s quite surprising!”
William began to connect with his music a lot more during the making of 水に流す [Forgive & Forget], released in May 2019, which was also his first experiment with sample-free slushwave. Prior to this album, every album he produced utilised samples from genres such as 90s J-pop and soul, as most vapor-adjacent genres did. When this album came around it was quite a breakthrough in his production style, and began a trend in the slushwave scene towards making original music and sampling that instead.
Not only can you feel the beauty of this album in sounds and textures, but also in the songwriting and composing. The melodies are delicate and heartfelt and complements the spacious reverb extremely well. Feelings of peace and love are prevalent throughout and are emphasised by the melancholic chord progression which William utilises so expressively.
“Forgive and Forget was a real treat for me to make, and as my first sample-free slushwave album it holds a special place in my heart. I remember when I was actually making it, getting emotional from hearing the slushed versions. It felt like my own expressions were radiating from this sound palette I had so frequently used for samples in the past, almost like double the expression. I can tell from the reviews of this album that people find inner peace from this album, which is really heartwarming considering that is also what I strongly felt in making it.”
Album link: https://desertsand.bandcamp.com/album/–10
His most well-known album is 新世界の弟子たち [New World Disciples], which tells a story of somebody who wants to leave their uninteresting, menial life and join the new world full of life and positive energy.
An excellent summary can be found from the Needlejuice records release page on their website:
Melding the holistic, layered ambience of slushwave with the melodic worldbuilding of dreampunk, William’s breathtaking work transports listeners to futuristic cities, naturalistic vistas and lonely highways. Befitting the wholly original musical content of the album is desert sand’s most explicit concept yet. 新世界の弟子たち explores spirituality and new age religion as an escape from the dull, bleak and dehumanising realities of modern civilization.
Melancholy expressions of desire and longing are transformed into euphoric movements of eclesiastic triumph and fulfilment, tinged with the knowledge that something greater is waiting out of sight at the end of an unending, arduous journey. Moody, haunting and yet uplifting, 新世界の弟子たち cements desert sand feels warm at night as a scene-transcending heavyweight of expressionistic soundcraft. It bridges the divide between underground movements such as dreampunk and more mainstream ethereal electronic music, as much Julianna Barwick as 2814. In doing so, it proves that these scenes are not just here to stay, but only beginning to reach their greatest heights.
“Creating the environment that New World Disciples so heavily relies upon transporting the listener to was a tricky idea to realise, but through intent listening I managed to convey my own emotions into the sound and the final outcome almost acts as a metaphor for my life at the time, which was full of many depressive episodes. I managed to pull through though, and creating these albums helped me a lot in understanding and dealing with these problems. It’s the same with every new album I create – all the emotion and feeling I continually explore within myself I really need to express in another form. For me, it just happened to be slushwave.”
Album link: https://desertsand.bandcamp.com/album/–25