Friday, February 21, 2014

Significant Albums: dredg - El Cielo (2002)


Another *deep* record with which probably warrants a more extensive background, that may end up being put into this blog, but I'm sure I'll not be able to include it all tonight.

dredg is a band I have grown to love and their music has meant a ton to me. And while I still appreciate every one of their records, this is their highest art in some ways to me. Like Marillion's Brave in a way, the feeling, images, nostalgia, goose-bump moments, and what hits my brain when I listen to many parts of this album, are like staples in my existence.

It's at least partially a concept album about people's experience with Sleep Paralysis, which I thankfully cannot relate to, but still empathize with. But I also think the way the tones and lyrics that are used in this, can be connected on, with many other things. And naturally one of them is love and relationships.

Which brings me to the association I will likely always have with one of my favorite movies, Michel Gondry's The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; which is a movie that tells the story about 2 people who have the memory's of their what seems like failed relationship erased.

dredg wrote and recorded this album long before that movie was made, so it of course is more or less pure coincidence, yet still rather fascinating how it was discovered this album syncs up rhythmically/lyrically/tonally with that movie. The song "I'm Sorry But It's Over" maybe being the most coincidental as Kate Winslet basically is saying that very thing to Jim Carrey's character when that song comes on.

And as hard to believe, it was watching that movie with this album that kind of made me realize the unique element of this record, and got me to start listening to it and even the band in a different way I suppose.

The use of strings, the way this album flows so well, stands out. It almost is more of a *suite* like Marillion's Misplaced Childhood or Fates Warning's A Pleasant Shade of Gray in a sense. And for that reason, I do enjoy this album all at once, rather than hearing the tracks at random or selectively.

"Here We Go, down that Same ol road again..."

As much as something like "Bug Eyes" is dredg's most well known track, I think that line is probably their most well known line.

I guess to highlight some specifics though, tracks like "Convalescent" which I often think of a 50's or 60's family home like Leave it to Beaver or something from Big Fish or Pleasantville when I hear Mark Engles guitar riff at the beginning. and makes me imagine being in some old fashioned automobile, coming home to the family or something. It's almost dreamy. But the way that tune crescendos is just infectious. The line:

Maybe you've never seen it
Maybe you've never been through it
It's the only way to understand it
Save your clever statements
Brave yourself if you want in
It's the only way to understand it
To understand it

"Whoa is Me" also really stands out, as I always get goosebumps hearing the ending with Gavin's soaring vocals and the saxophone. "Waiting for the Snow ....When the water comes, I will over flow I will overflowwww ohhhh ohhhhh." Great saxophone, great building crescendo, and rather sad/sympathetic sounding ending (although go figure, with a song of that title). Those lyrics almost read like a story thinking about at the point when the weather gets warm enough to have the snow melt, something bad or sad may happen. Almost like a snowman? lol (Frosty?)

And it segues so well into "The Canyon Behind Her."

The line "Does anybody feel this way? does anybody feel the way I half of me is gone, but the lonesome part remains" just so sad yet powerful. This song gives this image of someone whose lost a loved one, or lost part of himself in some dark, horror/scifi story. Half of this person's essence was taken away, died, or went to heaven or hell. And I always think of a guy or girl sitting near a cliff looking onto a desert landscape. It's kind of surreal, which is another reason I am in awe of that song and the end of this album.

I think it was that song and those lyrics that 1st grabbed my attention to the band in general. Before that, I kind of thought they were just a rap-core band,or a band who just wanted to sound like Tool. But far from that I would come to learn, and there's a reason why Canyon closes this album and is the last song they play at most if not all shows in the encore. Call it "epic" or just call it a piece of music that can be impossible to ignore. It almost could be considered a spiritual or religious hymn or prayer actually.

Other songs or aspects to El Cielo stand out, from "Sanzen" to "Triangle" and for one, its reference to "Penguins in the Desert" from Leitmotif.

We live like penguins in the desert
Why can't we live like tribes?

The ending of that track just soars in the whole "born into silence, and let it all be... a fortune in silence"

To "Eighteen People Living in Harmony" which I love how it builds and the 2nd half builds 

Art is dying, is art dead?
Art is dying, is art dead?
Believe it, we need to move on.
A one track mind in a one way time,
Let's go ahead and gentrify,
We let art die with robot minds,
They steal the brush and paint boundary lines.
A stale kind of people we'll find,
Walking in single file line,
I think it's time we finally rewind,

Let's go ahead, we might as well

which repeats the chorus and then goes into a trippy almost backwords guitar interlude.

The guys in dredg love Pink Floyd, so there are moments I totally think they may have been going for a Floyd thing, from the samples to those dynamic sections that go spacey and quiet.

"Of the Room" I have always enjoyed, including the poetic lyrics (which a lot of this album's lyrics read lie poetry anyway), but for some reason i have always thought of the Jeff Buckley tune "Mojo Pin" in a way. The reference to a 'White Squalls" and on Mojo Pin referencing to "Black Beauty" I think of a black and white horse for some reason. Or horses or the story/movie? The Black Stallion.perhaps. Even though the term "squall" refers to a gust of wind, the idea of wind and riding a horse or horses kind of fits, so that connection, while may sound silly or a reach of sorts to some, I am not surprised the two might hit me. 

The uses of samples, and dynamics, to even the ethnic chanting and the rather clean production adds even more to how much this album stands out. It's really a work of art, that even though it was just their 2nd record, it seemed they spent the many years leading up to making. In fact dredg seem to be one of the best groups at doing that. Which is one of the reasons why, even with a smaller catalog than some bands, the quality of their work could be all the better because of the time and effort (and patience) they have spent creating them. And El Cielo being their most unique. I don't find any of their records, nor really any other records are quite like it. I just wonder if they will ever make something as revered as it again (Pariah I found came close a few years ago).