Track By Track: Druckfarben - Second Sound

By John A. Wilcox

A gen-u-ine progressive album from Canada's Druckfarben! Before we get into the tracks, Ed Bernard would like to say a few words:
There are many people we'd like to thank but just to mention a couple who were very important to the sound of Second Sound.
Steve Major mixed and mastered the album and also did some additional recording. Steve and I worked very closely on the mix and overall sound of the record and I thank him for his talent and patience. Steve did a great job recording and mixing our first album Druckfarben, and he surpassed it and our expectations this time. We'd also like to thank Dan Horton and TA2 Sound and Music. Dan engineered the bed track sessions and is a big part of the overall sound of our new record. Last but not least we'd like to thank everyone who bought our first record. You made it possible for us to continue. You paid for our DVD and for Second Sound. The new album has been out less than two months at the time of this writing and it's already been extremely well received by those who already knew about us and a bunch of people who are just discovering us. We're very proud of this new record and we thank everyone who supports us in what we do.

Track 1: An Answer Dreaming
EB: I've had versions of this song for a few years now, in various states of completion. The opening line was once the piano ending of an entirely different song. I always liked the way the tonality alternates between Ionian and Lydian and once I doubled it with guitar and organ it really came alive. It seemed too interesting to just be a throwaway part as the end of a tune so I decided to use it as the intro and develop around it.
The next section features a fairly heavy riff that's in an odd time signature but I tried to make it flow as naturally as possible so it felt a little less strange.
The next part is a unison line between myself and our keyboardist Will Hare. This was one of the original ideas I'd had for a long time. In fact, the working title of this song was Unison. The gothic chords that follow, and appear later as the chorus shift through a variety of keys until resolving into the key of the verses. This was a bit of a challenge when I was writing the vocal melody and backup vocals. It took me a while to get the harmony notes sorted out but in the end I think they really lift the tune nicely and work really well with the lyrics.
As always, while I have a fairly specific idea what I'm trying to say lyrically, I also try to keep them open to interpretation. I think this gives them more universality and lets the listener attach meanings of their own. All in all I think An Answer Dreaming is a powerful song and we all agreed that it should open the album.

Track 2: In Disbelief
EB: In Disbelief started as an idea Will and Phil were working on. They had it in very reasonable shape and sent it to me. I made some suggestions about a few things and reworked the bridge section. Our drummer Troy Feener was very influential in the bridge section. I wrote all of the shots and lines around his drum fills and his parts were really what made that section happen.
The lyrics are co-written by Phil Naro and myself and basically just present the idea that things happen, both good and bad, and keep your chin up and keep on going.
I think this song is a nice condensed version of a lot of the elements of Druckfarben. It's one of our shorter songs yet it has a ton of energy. Again, perhaps miraculously, we all agreed it should be the first song we released to the public.

Track 3: Dandelion
EB: Dandelion is another song that I had around for a few years. The initial idea was inspired by some of the ways Tony Banks (Genesis) combines two chords together to create unique polychords. The opening features an aggressive synth bass playing a half/whole diminished scale idea while triads are superimposed over top. One of the beautiful things about the diminished scale is it's ambiguity so it allows you to be less constricted in terms of harmony.
Once I added the distorted violin line that follows it really brought a sinister mood to the section. The song builds with the synth strings and then releases into the next section which also reprises later as the chorus sections. The verse sections, to me if no one else, sound like New Wave. I really tried to make them as driving and straightforward as possible but still snuck some polytonality in there for good measure.
The first verse has minimal vocal harmonies, letting Phil set the mood. The second verse gets considerably more dense from a vocal perspective, building to the strange and pretty vocal cluster before the second chorus. The choruses hopefully provide a release from the tension created by the other sections of the song with a simpler melodic and lyrical theme. I wrote the chorus lyrics before the verses so I knew I wanted them to contrast.
The verse lyrics came from things I ad libbed and then looked at to see if there was literally any rhyme or reason to them. Then I'd make changes and direct them where they seemed to be going. I was more concerned with the rhythm and flow and singability of the words, rather than trying to force them into prose. Dandelion was one of the things I ad libbed and it seemed abstract enough to serve as the title.

Track 4: Liberated Dream
EB: Liberated Dream was one of a bunch of songs I wrote in the summer of 2012. The opening riff is another example of trying to make something fairly complex sound simpler than it is. It's really a collection of chromatic notes dressed up as a heavy rock riff.
The first verse was a struggle for me for quite a while, until I suggested to our bassist Peter Murray that we try a slap bass section. Peter was excited about the idea and laid down an amazing funky bass part. It really made the verse idea come together and it's great to hear him and Troy grooving in this section. Of course that made the vocal melody and lyric a challenge to weave around their parts without masking them.
I wrote a melody and lyrics, and Phil and I got to work here in my studio. Phil definitely improved on what I had and hit some notes that we mere humans cannot. This song is also a blast for us because we all get a nice solo section. In fact Troy gets two. As usual with the lyrics, I have a definite idea what I'm thinking but left it open as well.

Track 5: Long Walk Down
EB: Long Walk Down was brought to the band by keyboardist Will Hare. He had written the beautiful opening theme and I loved it right away. Again I ad libbed the verse melody and lyrics and let them go wherever they led. The first verse is almost a duet with Phil and myself. I added the chorus synth line which also became the vocal melody and once again Phil stepped up and sang beautifully.
A quick re-intro brings us into the second verse where Phil takes the lead vocal.
Then the band ramps it up a few notches and the almost obligatory vocal harmonies take us to the outro. Now, about the outro: Will had also brought the outro section to the table. While I liked the general direction, I felt it was a little long and took away from the directness of the rest of the song. Will was very adamant that the section worked as is and we battled it out for a few months.
We have a general rule in our band that whoever presents the song has the final say so in the end Will prevailed. I wasn't sure what my role would be in the outro then I decided to keep it simple and play the melody. Once I tracked a couple of guitars I realized that I was wrong all along. The outro has now become a very strong melodic aspect of the song.
Will, I apologize here in print and I owe you a pint or three...

Track 6: Surrounds Me
EB: Surrounds Me started from a writing session between Will, Phil and me here in my studio. The three of us have always been able to get together and bounce ideas around and those ideas almost always make the album. This was the case on the debut album and proved to also be the case on Second Sound.
Phil had the initial seed for this song and him and Will traded ideas back and forth while I recorded and made suggestions. We have some cell phone footage of the actual session, with parts that are the actual tracks on the album which is nice to have for posterity. Phil had the lyric ideas for the verses and we worked together on the melody.
The first half of the song is very serene and invokes an early 70s vibe. I came up with the choral vocal sections that happen in the second verse and they gave us the opportunity to really bring the vocal sound of the band to a new level. Then the bridge section establishes a melody that became an integral part of the rest of the song.
The second section almost comes out of nowhere and is very driving and heavy. Yes I am a huge Rush fan...The next section of the song once again employs a driving synth bass motif which leads into an almost jazz fusion section that follows. The synth bass theme is picked up by guitar and bass and again, some polytonal triad stuff from the keyboards layered on top. The energy builds and then once again is resolved into a pastoral section featuring the melody from the bridge I mentioned earlier. This is a very open and atmospheric section which then leads us to a reprise of the choral vocal section ending with some classic Phil Naro.
Surrounds Me takes the listener to a few places and it's one of our favourite songs on this record.

Track 7: Another Day
EB: Another Day starts with an octave mandolin that I have strung with bouzouki strings and in a tuning that of course I can't remember. I really need to write these things down.
The vocals feature a nice contrapuntal component and are another example of how the band's vocal sound has evolved. The lyrics were also once again ad libbed by me and describe a story of someone emigrating from their native country to a new place and the thoughts and feelings they are having upon arrival.
The music and vocals alternate between pretty and ominous until the next section explodes into more of our fusion leanings. Like the song before it, Another Day journeys in a wide variety of musical places with hopefully a balance between technique and composition.
The song ends with an a capella vocal section which we all agreed was the perfect thing to bring us to Side Two.

Track 8: Second Sound
EB: Second Sound is the title track and our first long form song offering, coming in at just under 19 minutes. We really wanted to do an epic tune and we're really happy with the way this turned out. Although they're not listed in the liner notes or album art the song is a suite comprised of seven sections that I'll discuss individually here.
A: Trion
This opens the suite with Will's piano, followed by the violin melody and drums and bass. The mood is relaxed and gentle yet builds to the next section:
B: Fidula Obligato
This section is definitely one of the highlights for me. I made a conscious decision to make the violin a bigger element of Druckfarben's sound and the rest of the guys were completely on board. This section gave me the opportunity to write and play an adaptation of the main melodic theme as a Cape Breton style fiddle tune. Although not my first instrument, the violin/fiddle is something I just love to play and am very excited to incorporate into the band on an ongoing basis. The fiddle section then morphs into a more fusion styled section with some great interplay between Will, Peter and Troy. This section, like it's predecessor is fairly short and pointedly leads us into the first longer, song oriented section.
C: Externalization
Externalization begins with a slightly dissonant, guitar driven theme followed by a synth melody that becomes a prominent melodic theme throughout. The verses have a laid back feel to them that build to a recapitulation of the guitar dissonance for the chorus. Phil's voice soars yet again. In verse two we're introduced to a slightly fiddle sounding guitar melody behind Phil's singing. As his voice intensifies so does the guitar melody. The familiar synth line leads us to a key change chorus. The synth is now doubled by the guitar and crashes to an end. An unsettling diminished guitar lick brings us to another of the more song oriented sections.
D: Time Is Winning
Time Is Winning starts with the melody that was extrapolated into the fiddle tune described earlier. This was perhaps the earliest written section of what evolved into the Second Sound suite. Phil brought the song to my studio and we molded it into shape. We were lucky enough to test this out live and see what parts were really working and what parts were maybe not working.
The vibe of this song is almost like a folk tune with a very uplifting vocal performance from Phil Naro. The outro breakdown features banjo, dobro and in the spirit of the tune, a pint glass.
E: Under Heaven
Under Heaven begins with band crashes and an emotive synth melody from Will Hare. A very dreamy and spacey guitar melody sets the mood in the next section. The verses change gears with a bed of blended organ and guitar and Phil Naro's trademark soaring vocal. The mood shifts again and we're treated to Phil's sweet side. Serene. The keyboards take the picture until the dreamlike guitar returns. For anyone who's interested; that's one dry guitar in the centre, I duplicated it twice for a total of three identical tracks. Then I added a right side track all reverb and a left side track all delay. Simple yet I think, effective...
The atmospheric sound design type stuff at the end of this song has a few interesting elements. The percussion is an old recording from the early 1980s. It's myself, Troy and our high school friend Victor Sarafian playing on random household and "found' objects. If I remember correctly, Troy is drumming on a styrofoam hat. Also in the mix is backwards synth and an excerpt of the backing vocals from Walk Away, as found on our live DVD Artifact.
I really enjoy these sound design moments and I figured it would be cool to use ingredients that have a relation to the band rather than just random sound FX.
F: Over Heaven
What can I say? More violin, more fusion elements. If you listen closely this is the melody from the very first section of the suite. This actually came first in the writing. This section also got bumped up considerably in tempo during the recording session. To my ears it reminds me of Enigmatic Oceans era Jean-Luc Ponty or Mahavishnu Orchestra. I say this with great humility and deference to Jean-Luc and Jerry Goodman. If I could have an ounce of either of their talents I'd consider myself lucky. This section ends almost orchestrally and with Troy's controlled frenzy.
G: Second Sound
Acoustic guitars and piano. Phil sings "Starlight high in my memory. Coming thunder. Singing Second Sound" Nice to end the album with it's title. It had to happen!
Second Sound suite was a collaborative effort between Will, Phil and myself with Troy and Peter making very important contributions to the whole picture. The lyrics are spilt about evenly between Phil and myself. We're extremely pleased with the way it turned out, especially since it's our first attempt at a long form song.


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