Music Interviews

Hilang Child: “I write uplifting music to represent the feelings I want to be having” – Interview

Brighton based musician Ed Riman on his new album Every Mover, finding catharsis and redemption in music and playing life-affirming live shows in Indonesia

Hilang Child (Elliot Tatler)

Hilang Child (Photo: Elliot Tatler)

The word ‘hilang’ in the Malay language that is spoken across much of the Far East means ‘lost’ or ‘missing’. There are clues throughout the course of our conversation with Ed Riman, the man behind the Hilang Child name, on why he chose this ‘lost child’ name for his musical project. More importantly however, second album Every Mover seems to mark a moment where it also feels like he’s beginning to outgrow it. That’s something we’ll return to later.

Riman released Years, his first album under the Hilang Child alias back in 2018. It came out, like Every Mover, on the Bella Union label and was a fledgling, occasionally striking collection of songs that helped lay much of the foundations for its follow up. Every Mover takes some of the ideas that Riman first explored on Years and sees him build on them confidently. It’s a clear step up in quality and execution and the more we talk the more it becomes apparent that it was arguably just as much a learning curve and voyage of personal discovery for Riman as a collection of songs.

He begins by talking about the album’s background and how he feels now it is out. “I finished recording it just before the first lockdown around March 2020 and then we were mixing it remotely for a lot of the first wave of the pandemic and finished it by mid-2020 so the songs have been ready for a while. Given all what has happened since, the songs feel like they’re from a different time. It almost feels like a relief to have them out now. I’m really proud of them and it feels good for them not to be a big secret any more”.

A lot of the songs on the album have a strong emotional pull to them, with many being a response to some difficult recent episodes in Riman’s personal life. “One thing I’ve been quite vocal about this album is that a lot of the content came from the spirals of self doubt I was finding myself in that came after that first album. I feel that what came out on Every Mover is a good representation of where my head was in that period”.

“I was talking to someone about this recently and we were comparing songwriting and what comes out musically when we’re in certain headspaces. When some people go through dark periods it is reflected in the music, like they want to write about that break up or use the experience to make sombre music. During difficult periods the way I get a release is by writing music that represents the feelings I want to be having”. 

“Anthropic is one of the most uplifting, euphoric songs on the album but it was written when I was at one of my lowest ebbs”

The exposed, emotional feel of the album is nowhere better felt than on soaring lead single Anthropic. “Anthropic is one of the most uplifting, euphoric songs on the album but it was written when I was at one of my lowest ebbs. I was writing it lyrically and sonically to try to bring myself up and try to reach for a feeling I hadn’t been having so it was really cathartic in that sense”.

Every Mover was also a far more collaborative effort than his debut, something that seems to contribute to the feeling that Riman is becoming less ‘lost’. “That was definitely one of the main aims for this album. I’m proud of the first album but when I think back to the process of making it, it was quite lonely. That isolating process was not why I got into music. I wanted to get into music to experience it with other people so before I even started this album I knew that this time around I wanted to get others involved. The track Good To Be Young has a gang vocal refrain. I thought that if I have a part that has to be sung by lots of people immediately I know it’s going to be collaborative” (some of the artists that feature on the album include fellow Brighton quartet Penelope Isles and Riman’s long term associate Paul Thomas Saunders).

“On this album I discovered the joy of just really putting yourself into something”

Every Mover also feels like music created by a fundamentally more assured artist. “Yeah, in the last two years I think I’ve become much more confident as a songwriter and also just generally in myself. I started out in music as a drummer so I wasn’t used to being out at the front and I think a lot of the music on the first album reflects that. I don’t want to use the word timid when talking about it, but on this album I discovered the joy of just really putting yourself into something”.

The album has a noticeably widescreen, expansive sound, especially on tracks like King Quail and Play ‘Til Evening. Was that something he was consciously aiming for?

“I don’t think I’ve ever started a song and thought about exactly how it should sound. The way I write is by constantly building on things until I get to a point where I feel happy. Working on these big arrangements did become a little laborious so I’ve made a vow that whatever I do on my next album I want to give myself a limit on how many tracks and layers and not have to rely too much on those big expansive sounds”.

Riman appeared on Ojalá, the first album by Lost Horizons, the band featuring Bella Union boss and former Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde. Were the Cocteau Twins a big band for him?

“When I started making music I knew of the Cocteau Twins but I wasn’t that familiar with their music. I think a lot of what I was listening to at that time was music that itself got compared to the Cocteau Twins, like Sigur Rós who were one of the first bands I was really into. There is another funny coincidence in that my Dad is a hairdresser, and back in the ’80s when the Cocteau Twins were releasing music, he was Simon’s hairdresser. When I signed to Bella Union I was telling my Dad about how my label was managed by Simon and he couldn’t believe it! After I signed to that label I started to appreciate just how influential they were.”

Riman still has family in Indonesia and he recalls playing shows there after his debut was released. “It was quite surreal and really exciting. I hadn’t done many overseas shows other than a couple in Europe and at SXSW. Half of my family were down in the front row and some fans had travelled for hours by train for the shows which blew my mind. It was a life affirming tour.” It might not be possible to have such experiences at present but, all being well, Riman is scheduled to support Lanterns On The Lake on their UK tour later in the year. For now, Every Mover offers something else, an album that captures a different set of emotions and shows how music continues to be a source of vital support in overcoming life’s challenges. 

Every Mover by Hilang Child is out now on Bella Union. Further information can be found here.

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More on Hilang Child
Hilang Child: “I write uplifting music to represent the feelings I want to be having” – Interview
Hilang Child – Every Mover