Friday, 7 March 2014

Where dreams and reality converge...

You can't beat a good book.

The album packaging and PDF booklet that comes with the full download of Traces list several books and authors in the credits. As an avid reader, particularly of SF, I’m always rooted in a book, and this inevitably influences whatever I’m working on, whether it’s artwork or music.

Taking a bit of a break from science fiction, I’ve found myself more interested in what is often referred to as speculative fiction.

Last year I discovered the work of Christopher Priest. I’ve become addicted to his books. Dreams and realities converge, usually in very mysterious, unpredictable and harrowing scenarios. Priest also created the “Dream Archipelago”, a series of islands in an alternative reality, which is a recurring setting in several of his works. The Affirmation, The Glamour, The Extremes and his haunting inter-connected short story collection, The Dream Archipelago were all brilliant reads, and perfectly reflected the sort of mood I wanted to project through my music.

My friend and renowned space artist David A. Hardy had referred me to Graham Joyce’s d├ębut novel, Dreamside. This book – sadly out of print – took some tracking down, but I eventually got my paws on a first generation copy at last year’s Novacon. And it was worth the long search!

Dreamside explores the concept of lucid dreaming and follows a group of young students engaged in a series of dream experiments. They manage to cohabit the same space, which they call the “dreamside” – but things soon turn dark and disturbing as elements of the dreamside begin to seep through into reality. A compelling and gripping book from cover to cover, and like Priest, Joyce’s exploration of human psychology is just superb. I followed this up with one of Joyce’s latest books, The Silent Land, a haunting and moving work, written in a similarly gripping fashion. I certainly look forward to reading more of Graham’s work.

Having enjoyed Jame’s Smythe’s nightmare-in-space novel, The Explorer, I was keen to read his next work, The Machine. Described as “a Frankenstein for the 21st Century”, The Machine is set in the near future and is unsurprisingly, a story about a machine - designed to restore memories but subsequently banned by the government. The novel follows a young woman, Beth, who has come into illegal possession of one of the Machines, in an attempt to re-build her traumatised husband who has been emotionally and psychologically broken by war. The Machine takes you on the downward spiral with the characters in a bleak and unsettling read.

Over the last few years, I’ve also become a fan of cult Japanese author Haruki Murakami. While his books often verge on the absurd and surreal, he creates such engaging characters and vivid scenarios, it’s impossible to but his books down once you’ve picked them up. Again, we’re propelled into parallel scenarios and dreamlike environments in contemporary Japan, every page full of questions and surprises. IQ84, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood and Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World are just a few of his books really worth checking out.

With all of these books, the subtle transition between dreams and reality and reality/alternate reality was something that interested me and was the sort of atmosphere I was striving to create on Traces.

While my music isn’t a direct interpretation of any of the above (which, being instrumental, it would be difficult to do!), in my mind, it was almost like creating a soundtrack to what I was reading. Some of the imagery in the books, whether it was the sea view from the convalescent home in The Glamour, the fractured memories of The Machine or the blurred lines between dreams and reality in Dreamside really fuelled my ambition for the album – at least in my ears.

What I love about instrumental music is the fact that it can be thrown open to interpretation, aside from its initial or proposed premise. I’d love to hear from anybody who has bought a copy of Traces or streamed it online, and what kind of imagery it brought to mind.

Traces is out now on Bandcamp.

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