2 Smargaid Maerd

It has come time to bite the bullet and make public a project that was originally intended for ‘commercial only’ release. It’s time to be less precious about this and present the work in a way that’s a little more in-form with the progressive web movement away from the commercialization of music, moving toward art that is free and involved with the web-community. I’ve sat for so long on these songs that I’ve moved a long long way from this sound and composition technique. So these songs are not indicative of ‘where I’m at’, but in release serve to clear the archive a bit and get it out there.

In the tradition of the first Dream Diagrams album, most of these tracks were written quickly using dream intuition, often in a very sleepy state. I would try the best I could to stream of conscious the music into the computer, mostly using early versions of Renoise. The times were unsettled stressed times, the final years of my university degree and my college residence. There was much unexplored anxiety over not knowing how to face the approaching terror of a high school teaching career I didn’t want to do. Study burnout was a problem too, as well as mounting insanities from living in the boxed social environment of college. So cathartic composition was a good coping option, and all these tensions worked their way into the music. Work began late 2002 (in The West Room), went on mostly during 2003 (in The Lighthouse), and a little in 2004 (in Taree) on the difficult song “Sleep is God”, ending on the 20th of August with the current mastering.

Everything you hear on this album is myself, except Track 5 (If Not When) and the first movement of Track 6 (Altitude Aria), both by myself and Ryan Sanders. During the entire process there was a significant amount of engineering advice from Simon Floth, as well as key music advice and feedback from Jarrad Cousin and Clinton Moore. And, the vocal for “Sleep is God” could not have been possible without the tuition from Naomi Leago. More details will follow in the song explanations below.

The artwork has been available online for some time now, but now will make sense with songs being public. Unfortunately the web-design (as of the time of writing) requires a pop-up window, so allow it and have a look inside. It contains the full high resolution image-set as well as the words for all the songs.

Below the two discs of the album I have provided links to brand new remixes of three tracks. These have been done using my current mixing and mastering standards. If you’d like to download some new new stuff then you can start with those!

DISC 1 - Consciousness:

  1. Control - Influenced by a sound technique David Lynch used in his Fire Walk With Me film where characters spoke in a dream-sequence warp, I though a small spoken axiom would be good start things off in an arty way. It is backwards forwards. The speaker’s dialogue is learnt backwards and then performed in such a way. Then the recording is reversed so the dialogue comes out ‘normal’ again, but as a result it sounds mighty strange. In “Control” I had several limitations with recording quality (only using a dynamic microphone and a very average soundcard), so I felt compelled to mask this using effects. Using a simple close delay, the voice is mechanized and the “let go” advice is delivered unemotionally. A little time streching and vast echo on the last “go” and the music gets under way…

  2. Kyzyl Industries - This song evolved out of some noise experiments with deriving high pitched harmonics from noise filters. This reminded me of Tuvan throat singing, but obviously had a more industrial application to it. What flowed out was a song with strong electronic plod and uplifting pads and sparkle. The rest was pretty much stream of conscious writing that ended up in a grayer atmospheric space with some nice jammed piano. Starts upbeat, but ends downbeat - it does what it does, there is no why. To keep the album transition going, a large sucking sound comes in to lead us to…

  3. I Love You And I Love Your Needles - Much has already been written about this popular track, which you can read here. However, what you hear here is the original ‘album mix’ without James DXU’s drums at the end, and in all it’s original digital nastiness.

  4. Song For The Modern World - Evolving out of an old four channel chord experiment in FT2, this sequence was heavily distorted and filtered lower to create that worried muffled sound. A distant cloud of melody floats in produced from sliding a screw driver over my guitar strings and adding much echo. The words are two versions of the the same recording, one reverberated over the background, and one in the foreground that is time stretched to un-sync with the other. The song has an ‘unfinished accusation’ feel to it, especially as the end sees the chordal notes fall into cloudy sustain and the words simply do no more than just list the problems without suggestion of how things could be improved.

  5. If Not When - This misty transition piece was done pretty quickly and contains nothing but live recordings and a bucket load of echo and reverberation. Ryan Sanders came by to The Lighthouse one morning in 2003 and we laid down 5-6 layers of ambient guitar and vocal drone notes, very similar to Ryan’s solo material which has a deep introspective ambient flavour. I asked him for a title and he appropriately said “If not when”.

  6. Altitude Aria - 3 Infinite Movements - The first movement of this was composed in 2002 with Ryan Sanders, a combo of his beatwork and my music. This and two other short ideas I had lying around didn’t feel like they needed to be fleshed out into full songs, but I could possibly home them short-form in a medley. With each of these movements I recorded some live improvisation, each with a separate guitar ‘voice’. The first has a slide guitar whine, the second has a more traditional rock lead, and the third has a fake-bass solo created using a harmonizer. Also the outro has a octave-up guitar twinkle over the fading wetness. Each transition was designed to do more than cross-fade: each movement pans in from the right, and exits from the left. Three separate cloud formations passing by the mountain top.

  7. Techy or Reality Skewed Into Tiny Fragments - Despite having a relatively simple electronic plod and repetitive bass/chord core, “Techy” was a bit of a ‘no bars held’ experimental piece, and composed very fast. The spoken word at the start was recorded in one take, and is complete stream of consciousness. I was intending to get into the narrative of a common dream situation I experience, including weird architecture and incessantly traveling south to Sydney. A clean distant guitar improvisation was laid over the sequence of the song blowing itself up into two re-buffered and pitched layers (using Transverb). Morphing from dry to wet I dubbed up the ending with atmospheric delay. The familiar is blasted out into strange aurora.

  8. Rain Is Good For My Mental Health - Mary White College has three pianos, which meant I had ample access to them to explore piano composition and improvisation. I was able to explore a fascination with the quietness and space that could be achieved with the piano, and I was developing a playing style that discards melodic intention in place of texture and mood construction. This can be as simple as just placing your hands on the keyboard and playing softly whatever notes you have landed on leaving space for them to ring out. I decided it would be great if I could live record one of these improvisations. So one wet night in 2003 I took all my computer equipment down to MWC’s acoustically wonderful dining hall where the baby grand was located. Using only a very very cheap desktop condenser microphone it took ages to find a placement where the recording would not distort. After everything was settled, what you hear here is the second take. Up until the last repeated phrase (which is a thematic echo of “Way Out”) this is pure improvisation. It was something to be happy with, but it didn’t quite sit on it’s own just as a piece of piano melody. Keeping in theme with the weathery aspect of the rest of the album, I decided to record some storm rain and thunder from The Lighthouse window. A little more spatial processing to widen the sound and a building mix with the piano takes us into the rain and murk, onward to…

  9. Mount Bogong - This song is named after a dream sequence of a particular mountain in the Victorian Alps. During the summer of 2002-03 our family holidayed there and the dramatic landscape served as a strong point of influence. Again, the vocal take was singular, and done stream of conscious over the throbbing massive backing chords. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear that my voice was recorded when I was heavily sick with a cold! …Aside from the random glitch variation in the percussion I needed more variety to push the narrative. So I patched up between two pedal effect boards a warm heavy lead guitar sound and recorded via a mic’d amp. Not fussing much, what you hear is first take, two solos left and right channel.

  10. Mount Hotham - Keeping in theme of mountains, this song moves onto another Victorian peak. On the aforementioned holiday, Scott and I got the amazing chance to ride our mountain bikes all the way downhill from the top of Hotham to Harrietville (we did again a few days later from the top of Mount Buffalo). The exhilaration of floating down through the forest stuck in my mind ever since in slow motion. That vibe went straight into the music, as soon as I know that the odd rhythm of this song was the right way to present the rush. Heavy with delay and bright distortion I made the main improvised melodic texture using Frippertronic tape-loop emulation. This fades out ever so slowly as the song goes on. Falling down the hill, or just down…

  11. Depressed - One particular dark emotional episode saw me in front of Renoise in the evening, unable to do much else. The resulting cathartic exercise is what you hear here. Much of the song’s tension comes from poorly compressed reverb, bit-crunching and weird gating techniques to produce that shuddering effect. Later on the vocal mantra was overdubbed, with a cascading piano solo that was recorded on the upright piano in the SCR of MWC. This is as close as I’ve got to purely emotional expression with a sequencer. Once the expression was done, I went to bed defeated.

  12. Way Out - Sometimes all you need is a good sleep to regain positive perspective. The morning after writing ‘Depressed’ I got up and immediately wrote ‘Way Out’. It is a crunchy 7/8 groove that uses the chord theme from the end of ‘Rain is Good’, with improvised synth and guitar solos floating by like light clouds. After the positive mantra, distortion rains in like bright glorious balm, but still having a yearning unresolved feeling to it. This has been a favourite moment over the years, and concludes my favourite passage of the album starting with ‘Techy’ and ending here.

  13. My Heart Beats Only For You - Kicking up a gear for the dancey end of the album, this song continues the wistful joy and bitter-sweet floating. I was aiming for an exuberant feel that lead into mounting ecstasy. Unfortunately at the time I couldn’t really achieve that without the warped erotic moaning cue, so this is what it is and for me still comes close to the mark. As the ‘peak section’ passes I had fun morphing the ‘bitter sweet’ synth drone into wobbly chaos using an effect called Crazy Ivan and transition to wet verb. The pounding beat goes on into a background pulse, leading us out into the field…

  14. Electronic Rural Sunshower - Continuing the groove flow, ‘Sunshower’ comes close to being a straight ahead Underworld rippoff, hopefully with it’s own charm. The overdubbed guitar layers build around warm major key machinery - bright and wet like the title suggests. The quiet rambling off to one side is a reading of a series of anti-corporatist cartoons I had lying around, and bears no relationship other than juxtaposition with the glorious rising in the music. It is what it is. There are always words on the page.

  15. (Sleep Is God) - Born out of a discovered chord progression I kept repeating while falling asleep one day (getting slower and slower), ‘Sleep Is God’ captures both lyrically and musically the fatigue issues I was facing during my student days, falling asleep every afternoon. Judge of that what you will, my point was to do something of justice to the sleep chords I had fallen in love with. Using the same sound-set as ‘Way Out’ I married a rusty plod with a monstrous bassline I came up with on Will Baker’s bass rig. This song was the most challenging of the project, due mostly to the vocals. Most of the music was done in August of '03, but the vocals keep presenting problems for a year after that. It was holding the whole album up as it was the only song I had left to do. So during mid '04 I signed up for vocal tuition with local Manning artist Naomi Leago. That was a experience of itself, but she provided excellent progressive advice on breathing techniques and finding my own voice. I’m particularly happy with the whole first verse, but the second has lagging rhythm issues (which is ironically appropriate in a way), and the end choruses have their own impurities. The song ends the first disc with a slowing repeat of that original chord set, fading out into sleep from consciousness to unconsciousness.

DISC 2 - Unconsciousness:

  1. Suicide - Written immediately after I finished writing the violent explosion of ‘Vulcanella Self Destruct’ I musically set the composition gears for doom and wallowing. Taking the stern darkness of the slow string sample of ‘Mount Bogong’ playing B and D into a Frippertronics style loop, I started mining the concept of vile intentions manifest in sound. After seeing the recent film interpretation of Lord of The Ring’s scene of Mordor (an evil wasteland) I wanted something as grandly visual as that in sound. Much of the sound design relies on automatic LFO movements that change the sound parameters without programming. The sounds here run themselves over time and remain dynamic enough to create an interesting soundscape. I had also set a rule of composition: no drums. After a long period of throbbing sludge I recorded a distant improv synth solo, echoed into some vast cold cathedral. After about 17 minutes of pure brooding darkness the mass fades away.

  2. There Are No Answers - Only Choices - I wanted to continue the arty feel of ‘Suicide’ but in a different context. The same rules were applied here, no drums, ambient soundscape, long song-form, loop based theme, LFO automations, and musically emotional drones. Much inspired by Cliff Martinez’s soundtrack to the Soderburgh film Solaris, I was going for a slow introspective piece using glockenspiel samples and slow strings. About half way through morphed and filtered transient noises flick backwards like a sci-fi tape recorder playing memories over and over. The title of the song is a catch line from the film, and has much to do with dreaming process, desire and understanding. Each wave of strings forms a new dream emotion. The track floats through to a bass-tonic resolution of acceptance, but a sadness still lingers unexplained.

  3. Iced Coffee - This is named after a growing obsession with Bickford’s ice coffee syrup mixed with milk which I was having every afternoon to trying to fend off sleep. I found a melancholic 2-chord set played with slow attack, distortion and loads of delay, to be the right sonic density to represent the small private joy of drinking this stuff (to which I’m now addicted to a whole variety of iced coffees, as well as a decent cappuccino). This 19 and a half minute jam of these two chords (A9 and G#/A9) with little bursts of harmonics and pitch dives, floats over a rising sine wave ostinato (via Transverb) and is later joined with wet rushing sounds. About half way through at a point I can’t remember the recording of the guitar was interrupted by Jarrad who was coming into The Lighthouse to see what the sound was! I said it was OK, slid back into the last moment and continued the drones. As the song draws to an end I was slowly rolling off the gain on the guitar so that the distortion was softer with each chord.

  4. Embryonic Infinity - This song was one of the last to be made in '03 late in the year, and the last of the ‘art experiments’ in the long-form style. Taking a lot of the emotional tension of the year and all the previous music I wanted to create some sort of long moment of atmosphere, joy, pain and infinite absolution. Like going foetal or dreaming in some sort of sad bliss duality. Out of low murky weather sounds I started with two looped drones of voice, making a minor third. A low slow sine sub-bass rolls in to frame the emotional pivoting points of the progression: 4th, 6th, 7th and then 1st. Flicking nervous strings eventually floating in a straight ahead improv holding up the sombre mood. Slowly it all builds with new layers, each heralded by a new chord note re-pitching of one of my drone voices. This sounds slightly odd, and a little like an annoying mosquito at the peak. The density increases and crescendos in slow motion over the last chord sequence, only to abruptly end with one of the re-pitched drones hanging in your ear like an unwanted bug in your ear as you’ve just woken up from a dream. Here ends the unconsciousness.


Absolutely Doomed - Somewhere in '04 I had done a quick tweak on ‘Mount Bogong’ making the low string note randomly scrubbed up and the drums a little more forward in the mix. It wasn’t until mid '07 I started playing with it and totally remixing using my current standards of sonics and tastes in effects. This has an industrial dub feel but still has all the original melodic tension from the guitar solos. The title of the remix refers to the original unnamed song file name “Absolute Doom”, probably referring to the low strings.

My Heart Only Beats For You - When I wrote the original was I tossing up in my head whether the title should be “Beats Only” or “Only Beats”. Given I picked the former for the album, this remix bears the latter. Mixed in the last two months, in my view this is me finally getting this song right. This should now play very well on big systems for dance purposes. Also, in the original I was experimenting with chordal overdubs for the ‘peaking section’, but here I’ve got that achieved with re-pitching the E note kick drum up to F#, making the whole thing a lot more exiting.

There Are No Answers - Only Dub - This is an ‘ideal mix’ of ‘There Are No Answers - Only Choices’ but a little more ‘dubbed out’ and thicker this time. Instead of having an empty spacey feel this has a heavier weathery element to it, and still retains all the original emotional searching through those long string-juno notes.

I Love You And I Love Your Needles (Modification) - As mentioned earlier, much has been written on ‘Needles’, but this remix is included here to complete the 2nd Dream Diagrams collection.

…And that is it! There is a lot of material here, but it is hoped that you can get into this slowly over time much like a traditional album. Speaking of which, I still have the intention to produce a physical copy of the original album for commercial retail through this website’s shop. Presently I’d like to make a limited run of pressings that includes physical artwork and a old fashioned CD. This has been the intention all along, but due to so many other things it hasn’t happened. However, I’ll be making and effort for this project, mostly as a test run for some future projects that will have a little more of a commercial edge to them, as ugly as that sounds. For now, and finally, you can enjoy the experience in mp3 format.

Any takers?

Just started working my way through this.

Listened to Sleep is God first, name caught my eye.

I really liked it. Your voice reminds me of Devin Townsend, as does some of the musical style in the song. Thus, I’m a fan already.

I’ll continue pushing forward through the album now. Thanks for the share.

Hey thanks. Big Devy fan here too. I was listening to a lot of Infinity when I made this, of course with lots of Terria and Ocean Machine too.

I’m sorting out some hosting issues, so I’ll be able to get up a ZIP of the whole project soon.

I’ll also will be offering FLAC commercially, but a little more time is required to set that project up.

Some more information for you on the recent album release. You can now download the entire mp3 collection from one link:


The above is a 213mb rar file, which will need un-compressing once you have downloaded it. Later on I’m going to look into bit-torrent to better deliver these large files, but for now make sure you’re ready for a big download if you’re making the attempt. If you so prefer, you can still download each song separately here.

I put some research into pricing of getting this album pressed. This is currently out of my budget and I doubt very much that I’d be able to make my money back with such non-commercial album as this. So for now, I’ve had to rethink my approach. In the near future I will be offering, through the mmd_shop, the ability to purchase high a quality FLAC version of the album. This will allow people to download it and burn their own CD quality version.

To do that I’ve had to organize moving hosts, as my current one is too small to home such large files. So there may be some ‘downtime’ during the move. Once done, I hope to do a lot of re-working to the website to better feature my past works, and some other new bits and pieces for a stronger commercial presence.

Downloading now.

Listened through most of the first disc a while ago, got busy and haven’t had time to check out the second disc yet.

Let me know when you’ve got the purchaseable version up. I’d like to support this.

Thanks guys, the support is appreciated!

Kaneel, careful with disc2, you may sleep right past your train stop… :o