The study of dreams is called Oneirology. During the day, the soul receives images; during the night, the soul produces images. While most people think of time as a constant, the famous theoretical physicist Albert Einstein suggested that time is an illusion, it can vary for different observers depending on their speed through space, and he further posited that gravity can bend time. Thus inspired, I will experiment with mixing up linear conventions to bring you this story.
I had the opportunity to exchange email with Sverre Knut Johansen in August of 2020, The first question I asked him was about how the album came about. This is what he told me.
SKJ: Most of the music on this album is crafted and sound designed with inspiration from the art picture BEACON by Michał Karcz. The BEACON picture is the front cover on this album and for me it is quite magic and maybe a little unreal.
RBJ: Why did you choose that particular picture?
SKJ: I guess I chose the picture because it reflected the music I want to make. Also I had this title “Beyond Dreams” in my mind for some years, and this fine picture also reflected this title. When I was working with the music I always used BEACON as my screensaver, for when I compose and when I listen.
At this point I decided I wanted to find out more about Michał Karcz, so I looked at several websites, Karezoid Michal Karcz (https://500px.com/karezoid) and Abduzeedo (https://abduzeedo.com/node/82933). Here is a summary of what I found.
On Abduzeedo: “The combination of digital photography and painting totally works well for his art. The universe that Michal is taking pleasure to make are places that don’t exist coming from his dreams, desires, imagination and fears. For those you won’t know about Michal, he is an artist based in Warsaw, Poland that graduated from High School of Art in Warsaw.”
On Karezoid: “My journey into the world of photography began in the early 90’s, but at that time my biggest passion was painting, which helped me to develop a vision that was hard to create with other visual techniques. Unfortunately I had to leave the paintbrush and canvas. A few years ago I have opened “the door” to my own world with help of a different key. Most of my work is like a journey to the places which don’t exist. Places from my dreams, desire, imagination and fears.”
The Work of Michał Karcz shows great imagination, and I look forward to seeing more. He has a new website: https://www.michalkarcz.com/.
Let us return to Dreams Beyond.
SKJ: The meaning of the title Dreams Beyond is to explore and follow our dreams beyond the unknown, finding, searching and discovering a secret treasure (a paradise) hidden from the outside world, a peaceful place with long days surrounded by birds, beautiful landscapes, safe from all danger in this world. A healing place.
The music is more ambient than what I have recorded before this time and some sounds also pull the music in a more orchestral direction.
Now for my review, followed by a bit more about the equipment used to create the music.
The story never begins or ends – it merely ‘becomes.’ Using his collection of synths, electronic percussion, electric guitars, and sound design software, weaving melody, rhythm, and texture into a captivating musical tapestry that constantly evolves, the new album reveals secret treasures from a distant place.
The last of the summer moons have begun to wane, the old crows break their long silence and begin to shriek strange cries from the darkness, expressing dark moods framed by adventurous melodies that haunt the ancient mountains. These are the Tatra Mountains, the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains, which form a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. Their topography causes one of the most diverse climates in that region. Leo Frankowski mentions the Tatras several times in his Conrad Stargard series of science fiction novels, also there is mention of these same mountains in The Wolves of Time, a series written by William Horwood. The composer Karol Szymanowski on occasion found inspiration with the distinctive traditional music of the same Tatra mountains in southern Poland. The opening track sets this listening adventure in motion, “Tatra Mountains (Introduction)” (4:40).
There might be a science of dreaming, crossing the ancient chasm, cautiously emerging into percussive motion and pulse, a dance into the fullness of time and what lies hidden. Before the magical time of the chimera ends one might sometimes be aware while dreaming that one is dreaming, “Awakening” (9:37). To look through the ceiling, through the roof, to dream of reaching the sky, weaving awe for the soaring landscape, is sometimes a simple matter, requiring only a “Skylight” (8:58). Such openings allow for rhythm and pulses to lead the way up into the vast beyondscape. With a sound signal like whistling the title track emerges, leading into a stop and start sequencer pattern that keeps repeating and building: “Dreams Beyond” (10:54). Unseen creatures continue to whistle from the void, calling out to each other to enhance their telepathic illusions, thoughts dance upon the pillows of oblivion. What I hear next reminds me of the majestic beauty of creation and all those who love the silence and calm of the mountains, “Dawn” (4:01) is the frontier of the void, light emerges with varying shapes of the crystal-image spreading luster across the sky.
The term Tatra is a general expression in Slovak for barren or stony land, and in Russian for rocks and small stones in a river. The Tatra Mountains are home to many species of animals and insects and this song includes many imaginative clues that may trigger your ideas of what those beings might be doing. The track “Tatra Mountains” (8:35) presents a melody that haunts the wonderful meadows just under huge lime cliffs, walk through the valleys and then climb the higher parts of the range and behold the soaring landscape all around. The Legend of the Sleeping Knights is a folktale from the Tatra region, inspired by the outline of one of the most famous peaks, Giewont, which is said to resemble the posture of the sleeping knight.
You are now floating gently above the delicately painted sleeping knight, now surging towards ecstatic climaxes, now yielding to the hypnotic strains of a wordless dance. My favorite track is “Causeway” (9:48), an interesting journey through many layers and textures on a raised road across wet ground. I hear electronic insect sounds, portraying a trail through night and mystery, time and room variously for romance and terror, and letting go. Imagine discovering that you have already fallen into some accidental time travel to prior historical settings, and have been left stranded. Imagine being suddenly transported into the past, and managing to make something by exploiting all the things you know from having studied history. The mood is slow and vast, ever stranger events rekindle the fires of a dying universe. “Echoes of the Past” (9:19)
The final track is titled “Human Connection” (6:38) and is a reflective processional meditation, in my mind’s eye I can see lines of pilgrims climbing the mountain to find gems holding the powers of the season. The cello is played by Henrik Silfverhielm, and the synthesizers provide the situation.
RBJ: What equipment did you use for this project?
SKJ: There are two important synth pads that have been great for making this album: The "Equinox" Pad from PRISM for REAKTOR By Native Instruments and the "Epic Majestic" Pad from OmniChill by Plugin Guru for Omnisphere.
The Epic Majestic Pad is the foundation for the two "Tatra Mountains" tracks, also giving life and passion to "Dreams Beyond" and "Awakening" tracks.
The dramatic bird sounds I use in "Tatra Mountains" are a big part of this song as they create a more dramatic and intense vibe throughout the track. These two minutes I created with these sounds are important to the whole album as I also use them elsewhere to link the tracks together. The bird sounds on "Tatra Mountains" along with different effects and synth sounds was crafted from the OSCar programmable Music Synthesiser.
I have for some years been thinking about the guitar and for this album I asked some friends and borrowed a guitar and a EBow.
Playing the guitar is a new experience for me and this can be heard on all songs except “Tatra Mountains.” - For the tracks - “Dreams Beyond” - “Dawn” - “Echoes of The past” - “Human Connection” - I use EBow on the guitars.
RBJ: What have been your earliest and most important musical or artistic discoveries?
SKJ: In 1976-1980 around this period I listened a lot to Isao Tomita and at the same time I read the books of Erich Von Daniken. A perfect combination. Tomita`s “Bermuda Triangle” was an exciting musical discovery. This might mean that I have been growing up with more symphonic classical music and not so much electronic traditional music.
RBJ: In a few words, how would you describe your composition process?
SKJ: Finding the right sound and seeing what happens. Most of my music is Improvised in real time.
RBJ: What would you like to try that you have not tried yet?
SKJ: A concert.
Sverre Knut Johansen has allowed his listeners to become Krononauts, providing a path to the extreme distances of time, sometimes to explore the creation of the universe, and other times just for the speculative wonderment. He has a master’s degree in music technology from NTNU in Trondheim, Norway (2009). His first commercially released collaborative musical adventure was an EP of space rock titled Void (not on a label, 1980). In the beginning he experimented with audio cassettes and then built his first music studio in 1983, where he composed and recorded his own symphonic rock through the 1980s, adding computers and midi technology in 1990. He got a record deal with the Origo Sound label in 1992. Some recording highlights include Distant Shore (Origo Sound, 1994); The Source Of Energy (Origo Sound, 1999); Av Jern (Orkana, 2008); Planets (Origo Sound, 2013); Hibernation (Origin Music, 2013); Life (Origin Music, 2013); Ancient Prophecies (Origin Music, 2013); Lights (Origin Music, 2013); Elements Of Light (Origin Music, 2014); Different Directions (White Horse, EP 2014); Nightshift (Origin Music, 2014); Earth From Above (Spotted Peccary, 2016); Secret Space Program (Spotted Peccary, 2017); Contact (Origin Music, 2017); with David Helpling – The Vast Expanse (Spotted Peccary, 2018); with Robert Rich – Precambrian (Spotted Peccary, 2019).
And now, the new album DREAMS BEYOND: https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/dreams-beyond/
From Spotted Peccary Music.