Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula: Origins

Ivan Chew - ProfileI’m documenting how the album name, and the title track, came about. For my benefit, if nothing else.

The album title was conceived in Sept ’08, when Adrian and I were conversing over IM, about the song sequence for our 2nd album, One World One Moment (OWOM). Near the end of our chat, Adrian said he still had one more song to write. He called it “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula”.

“wah, sounds interesting… like aural-scape,” I wrote back.

Nine months later (I checked my email archive!), Adrian sent me an MP3 demo file titled “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula”. By then, it was obviously too late for the OWOM album. So it was definitely for the next unnamed album.

In his email, Adrian explained: “… this is half done.. need you to add bass, smoothen the sound. I was […] playing this in the dark! Anyway I think I could refine the tune. It’s about space and the beautiful stars I saw before Leea was born. I thought it would fit well into the new album about beginnings… since nebulae are where stars are born.”

Here’s what Adrian’s first demo track, which I’ll call Version Zero-One, sounds like:

I immediately liked the chord progressions and transitions in Adrian’s demo track. The backing guitar sounded good to me. When the chord progression shifts at around the 1min mark, I thought I heard a winner in there. Plus, Adrian had just given our third album its name.

Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula.

The name conjured up images that could be translated into instrumental tracks, I felt. Also, it seemed to tie in nicely with some tracks we were considering for the next album.

That very evening, I did a very rough edit of Adrian’s Version Zero-One and emailed to him. Just to give him an idea for how the track could be extended.

Next day, Adrian replied:

“… I am getting an idea of what you mean.

Anyway, I think I am adding another stanza as it seems missing in that part. I will email you the other stuff soon when I am done with the tune…

After I add that stanza, you can do your magic on it. Can you leave in some of the guitar bits that come up before I start each melody. Gives it that raw feel. Do keep the percussions the same before the 1 min mark and after that you can add some others. Keep the percussions clean and no ethnic beats for this. Lets keep it raw. Dont want to drown out the backing guitar cos I think that gives the music its mood.

Thanks, will try to add that stanza tonight.”

It was clear to me that Adrian put his heart and soul into the track. Very seldom would he work on a song immediately, LOL (for good reasons, given his teaching schedule and his three kids to boot). In any case, I had a very good feeling about the upcoming track.

Adrian managed to record his part and emailed to me:

“I have put in a lead, 22 takes! And this is not counting the previous chord progression I tried but I felt that was lame so deleted it over this one. Basically worked with a basic rift and then improvised for 22 times. Its got the atmosphere that I had in my head.

I added tambourines at 46 secs… Its quite fitting I feel.

I could think of some things that you could add

1. Bassline – a melodic one.

2. Some intro of sort before 1min 46 as a prelude to the lead.

3. The ending

4. Smoothen the lead tracks. (no chorus please) I like the leads sounds as it is but they are a bit sharp.”

His Version Zero-2 goes like this:

At that stage, the arrangement was still a rough one, but the idea was shaping up nicely over our email exchanges. I looked forward to working on the track after work. Adrian exported his individual tracks — guitars, beats — as MP3 (128 kbps, VBR) and sent them over via email.

Basically, we repeated the process of sending MP3 files over, commenting via emails. Each time our comments would be quite detailed on which parts worked, and which ones needed changes. If necessary, I would let Adrian know why I cut away some of his original guitar leads. And Adrian would let me know if my guitar leads (which I thought sounded good at first) didn’t quite make the cut.

One exchange went like this (from Adrian):

57s the kranging of the guitars are beautifully included. that really lifts the song quite a bit.

1min 9 s, nice beat added and the guitars sound great. The accompanying guitar is nice. A bass line here is needed.

1min 44 – 1min 51. The bend on the guitar sounds a bit off. Could be a better progression… The song shouldn’t have bends or anything pentatonic.

1m 53s to 2min – The clean guitar here has a nice melody, I like it. The increasing tempo is nice here with a new beat coming into the foreground… Sounding groovy so far.

Too much jamming I feel from 2 mins 27s till 3 m 26s. Basically I feel the beginning part was great. From 2 m 27s its just sounds a bit too improvised. Although the rhythm and the drums are well organised.

3m 25s the sudden entry of this part is nice.. great stuff here. Again, a bass would have made an impact here.

The accompanying lead you did from 4mins on, sounded nice.

What happened to the 3rd guitar solo? (1min 46 onwards in the one I did) Can bring some parts of it in?

I like the looping ending, that’s a nice touch. Your lead there is inspirational. It is uplifting man. I kinda of like this for the song.

I think the generally what I felt was that you brought the song to a new level and that’s really amazing. The only thing I feel it that the song lost some of that traveling through space kind of feeling… not sure it I am putting it through well though. There should be a lull somewhere in the middle – gives the perception of being lost in space, in a nice kind of way, a kind of abandoning/ liberating.

Lastly, it definitely needs a bass man… maybe a soft intro at 33s and then a full on one at 1min 9s.

Gmail conversation - Crystal Tears and the Dream NebulaThe “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula” track was our most intensive effort to date.

As I post excerpts of our email exchanges, I’m wondering if you’d read this and think that this is the work of two middle-aged guys stroking each other’s ego. That’s for you to judge.

What I’m certain was that we were pretty focused on how to make the music work for us, first. We were mindful to be tactful in giving feedback, but we said it like it was.

No egos were involved, and therefore no egos were hurt in the process.

The final version of the “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula” will be available with the rest of the uploads. So far, the preliminary reviews by our friends have been positive.

The fun part for us has been in the learning and creativity. Positive comments are a bonus.

Album cover preview: "Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebulae"

~ Ivan

7 thoughts on “Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula: Origins

  1. Pingback: Music album: 2010 Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula « :: Starfish Stories :: The Band

  2. Pingback: Music album: 2010 Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula « lekowala!

  3. Pingback: Music album: 2010 Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula « My Right Brain

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