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album analysis > el cielo

Concept | Liner Notes | Lyrics | Videos | Discuss

Here we take an in-depth look at the album 'El Cielo' by dredg.  We took clues and hints from the official dredg website left by the band members, used the journal entries from the booklet for the album, and with help from others, looked up related information dealing with the concept of the record.  I want to make one thing clear however, and that is; this is in no way 100% accurate, and there is no perfect answer to all the information below, or all the ideas supplied in 'El Cielo'....which can be translated to mean; "The Sky" or "Heaven" in Spanish, and to mean; "Peace and Freedom of Expression" in Dreams.

The Concept

"The flight and the ethereal became one, 
brushstrokes and sound colliding."

Sleep Paralysis: is a natural bodily function that causes us to be paralyzed during sleep. It prevents us from hurting ourselves or others during dreams. It's when it follows us into the waking state that it becomes a disorder. Sleep paralysis, or more properly, sleep paralysis with hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations have been singled out as a particularly likely source of beliefs concerning not only alien abductions, but all manner of beliefs in alternative realities and otherworldly creatures. Sleep paralysis is a condition in which someone, most often lying in a supine position, about to drop off to sleep, or just upon waking from sleep realizes that s/he is unable to move, speak, or cry out. This may last a few seconds or several moments, occasionally longer. People frequently report feeling a 'presence' that is often described as malevolent, threatening, or evil. An intense sense of dread and terror is very common. The presence is likely to be vaguely felt or sensed just out of sight but thought to be watching or monitoring, often with intense interest, sometimes standing by, or sitting on, the bed. On some occasions the presence may attack, strangling and exerting crushing pressure on the chest. People also report auditory, visual, proprioceptive, and tactile hallucinations, as well as floating sensations and out-of-body experiences.

Lucid Dreaming: means dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. This consciousness allows you to guide your dreams. This fascinating state of consciousness allows you to control your dreams and experience anything imaginable, from the sublime to the impossible. Lucidity usually begins in the midst of a dream when the dreamer realizes that the experience is not occurring in physical reality, but is a dream. Often this realization is triggered by the dreamer noticing some impossible or unlikely occurrence in the dream, such as flying or meeting the deceased. Sometimes people become lucid without noticing any particular clue in the dream; they just suddenly realize they are in a dream. It can also be Lucid Dreaming when you wake up from a dream, and you enjoyed it so much that you can go back to sleep and finish the dream and now, the second half of the dream is so much more colorful and bright than the first part. Now, instead of the dream having you, you have the dream.

Change: The symbol on many dredg shirts and on the cover of "el cielo" is derived from a Chinese character which is the ideogram "I" meaning 'chameleon', or 'change'. If you think about it, Lucid Dreams, part of the album concept, in one aspect, are dreams that the dreamer can 'change' and manipulate. The Chinese philosophy of I-ching is also focused on the idea of change. Change is eternal both for the cosmical and the human world - and therefore it is necessary to know in due time how to adapt to it. I-ching philosophy results from a natural wisdom connected to the real events of life. In Chinese philosophy, there are 5 stages of change. Basic to Chinese culture and mythology is the discovery/principle of the 5 Hsing. The five "Hsing" is usually translated incorrectly as the five "elements". Actually it means the five "stages of change" and are better thought of as "agents" rather than fixed "elements". The Hsing constitute the five basic types of human energies.

Five Stages of Change
Water  -  Fire  -  Wood  -  Metal  -  Earth

Within the album, these elements are pointed to in some way or another. The lyrics: 'freshest rain', 'and just float astray', 'wadding water', 'waiting for the snow', 'when the water comes' all relate to the first stage of change; 'Water'. The line in Of the Room, containing 'candlelight', could point towards the second stage, of 'Fire'. While, the lines 'paper and wasted' and 'papers are stuck', from Sanzen, and 'wood chairs' and 'wood tables', from Of the Room, point towards the third stage, 'Wood'. For the fourth stage, the line from 'Δ', 'lift your anchor', could point towards this stage of 'Metal'. The lyrics: 'richest soil', 'mountain tops', 'greenest plants', 'for flowers to bloom', 'penguins in the desert', 'roses sprouting', 'sit like stones', 'fool's gold', 'buried stones', 'cracked soil and brown leaves', and 'dry lake bed', all relate and/or point to the final stage of change, 'Earth'.

I think the idea of change that was initially thought to be about change in a more personal sense, is more along the lines of change in our way of life, our earth, our government, our society, our art, our beliefs, and our lives. It’s about in the sense of our lives, and how and what we are going to do about that change, and whether we will accept it, deny it, change it, or not do anything at all. The section above dealing with the 5 Stages, fits nicely, because all the lyrics mentioning stages, can be used as metaphors and it brings it all around.

Modernization: I believe that there is also a connection between the theme of Sleep Paralysis/Lucid Dreaming, Change, and the theme of Modernization. What the songs contained on this album and the video for 'Same Ol Road' seem to be saying is that all you need is a simple life, in a simple house, with some close friends, where you can appreciate life and nature and art. Which can also be linked to the fact that the band used a painting, as described at the top of the page, to base the concept of the album; as if to say that they haven’t lost touch with how much artistic expression means to human nature. I also think that this is where the theme of change is interwoven, as it is within all Dredg music. The theme of the album according to Dredg, is given in the track ‘Scissor Lock’, and can be figured out to be one of Sleep Paralysis and Lucid Dreams. However, it is interesting to think that one can use the entire theme of Sleep Paralysis as a metaphor. Sleep Paralysis could be a metaphor for the human reaction (being paralyzed) to the modernization, destruction of art and life. While Lucid Dreams (dreams we can change) could be a metaphor for just that; having the ability to change things, or ourselves, but because of paralysis we do not. As discussed and portrayed in the songs on the album; we are living the destruction, and modernization of our culture and know it's not a good thing, but because of how we are taught to think from the time we are children, and how we are shown to view things, we don't do anything about it to change it, or, can't so to speak, because you are paralyzed by society, by yourself, by your "Sleep Paralysis".

The Painting

Salvador Dali. One Second Before Awakening From a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate. 1944. Foundation Thyssen-Bornemisza, Museo Thyssen, Madrid 1944. he is dead. but his arm moved a lot.
This clue posted on, refers to the year in which the painting was done.  Dali died in 1989, and he painted many paintings, including the one to the left.  One of Salvador Dali's goals in his art was to depict ideas that come from the subconscious while dreaming.  The painting to the left is titled: Dream Caused By The Flight Of A Bee Around A Pomegranate One Second Before Awakening.

Dali commented on his own work......."For the first time, Freud's discovery that a typical narrative dream is prompted by something that wakes us was illustrated in a picture.  If a barfalls on a sleeper's neck, it both wakes him and prompts a long dream that ends with the falling of the guillotine; similarly, the buzzing of the bee in the painting prompts the bayonet prick that wakens Gala.  The burst pomegranate gives birth to the entirety of biological creation.  Bernini's elephant in the background bears an obelisk (a tall, four-sided shaft of stone, that rises to a pointed pyramidal top)" and also shows the papal insignia.

Dali often described his paintings as "hand painted dream photographs," and specialized in what could be called "oneric paintings [which are] paintings which refer to or duplicate the condition of dreaming."

Dali also commented on Modernization: "do not bother about being modern - unfortunately it is the one thing that, whatever you do, you cannot avoid"

The Songs

01. Brushstroke: dcbtfoabaaposba

When taking each of the letters, and comparing them to the above painting you can see that they correspond accordingly. "Dream Caused By The Flight Of A Bee Around A Pomegranate One Second Before Awakening"

Definition: pomegranate
1.  A deciduous shrub or small tree native to Asia
2.  The fruit of this tree, having a tough reddish rind, and containing many seeds, each enclosed in a juicy, mildly acidic, red pulp. (This refers to the red fruit in the painting above)

The opening sound of this track, and the album, is Drew painting on a canvas. This corresponds perfectly with the idea of using the painting by Dali as a basis for the concept of the album.

02. Same Ol' Road

Tintinabulitis - (used in the journal/booklet of 'el cielo' for same ol' road)
Definition: A ringing or tinkling sound

Here we go, down that same old road again: This lyric most likely refers to the recurrence of Sleep Paralysis, and the dream state. Here goes the sleeper, falling into deep sleep, here he/she goes, down the road of Sleep Paralysis again. Most sufferers of Sleep Paralysis do not only have a single episode, and therefore it is understandable that he/she would be reluctant to the experience again.

Wind that blows, and tickles our skin: These lyrics relate to Sleep Paralysis due to the many reports of feeling and hear wind blowing over and around one's body. This wind is said to tickle the victim at times, and at other times the spirit that haunts the sufferer, known as the "incubus", is said to tickle the victim, which is said to start our playfully but can become painful.

03. Sanzen

Sanzen - In Buddhist philosophy sanzen signifies the varying aspects and phases that life assumes. Zanzen as it is also spelled, is a sitting practice that allows time for quiet contemplation on the wonders of god and nature before the inevitable return to consciousness.

Bodhidharma - First Zen Dharma Ancestor (used in the journal/booklet of 'el cielo' for sanzen)
Refers to the honored founder of kung fu, the one credited with bringing tea to China. He is said to have cut off his eyelids to stay awake during meditation.

The lyrics: I can’t even concentrate on this. These refer to the need to meditate. Many people believe that meditation, though beneficial to your overall health, can help induce episodes of Sleep Paralysis, along with stress, lack of sleep, fatigue, and agony. It's not surprising to see this list, for the lyrics; "Hold on, hold on, we’ll be with you soon, we’ll be with you soon...Longing for what has been lost, and longing for what hasn’t been obtained, it’s a small cost, forgot the past, lost the future, only now remains…" seem to point to "a great loss", which according to these reports can cause one to "hallucinate" or have episodes of "Sleep Paralysis".

The Sanzen Temple - For much of its history Sanzen-in has been one of Kyoto's most isolated temples, situated in the village of Ohara, some way to the north of the city. Today its setting is still quiet and rural, so a trip to this ancient but well-preserved temple makes a very worthwhile break from the noise of Kyoto. It was founded over 1,000 years ago as an off-shoot of the great Tendai Buddhist monastery at Enryakuji on nearby Mount Hiei. Though the Tendai's teachings are broad, from the very beginning Sanzen-in was dedicated to just one branch, the nenbutsu. As preached by Eshin, this claimed that salvation could be attained, not through self-effort, but only by whole-hearted faith, an idea with great appeal for the ordinary illiterate people, enabling religion to spread to them. The Hondo, known as the Ojo-Gokuraku-in (Temple of Rebirth in Paradise) is a humble building which carries its 1,000 years peacefully. Inside, however, it is alive with brilliant images, carved by Eshin of the Amidha Buddha and his attendants Daiseishi and Kannon. The walls and pillars bear the remains of once-colorful paintings depicting Amidha's Western Paradise, which Eshin believed awaited Nembutsu believers after death. Beyond the Hondo the path winds up into a natural forested part of the temple's grounds, allowing time for some quiet contemplation on the wonders of god and nature before the inevitable return to the uncontemplative world outside.

04. Brushstroke: New Heart Shadow

#4. an image made with a brush. (clue posted on
This clue refers to the 4th track titled "brushstroke: new heart shadow", or the image made with a brush, in this case, a new heart shadow, which can be seen in the painting by Dali.

Amygdala - (used in the journal/booklet of 'el cielo' for New Heart Shadow)
Definition: an almond-shaped neural structure in the anterior part of the temporal lobe of the cerebrum; intimately connected with the hypothalamus and the hippocampus and the cingulate gyrus; as part of the limbic system it plays an important role in motivation and emotional behavior.

05. Δ

"Δ" or "triangle" - This seems to really be the symbol 'delta'.

Delta has a couple meanings. First, it relates to water, specifically a low triangular area where a river divides before entering a larger body of water. Lyrics in the song could reference this in some way. But, delta also is the symbol for change. And during this track, the point of change is referenced as well. To add to it all, in sleep there are "delta waves", so it would seem that all meanings relate well to this symbol, and this track.

It is sung in part: "We live like penguins in the desert..." which relates directly to the track 'Penguins in the Desert' from Leitmotif.

06. Sorry But It's Over

The lyrics: "Seduction for destruction, I'm finally breathing"
This could refer to people who suffer from Sleep Paralysis. They experience chest pressure, which makes it very difficult to breathe! It is said that the chest pressure is caused by "the incubus", which is a demon, who lurks on your chest. In 1781 Henry Fuseli painted "The Nightmare" depicting this event; A woman in white, lies on a divan in front of dark red drapes. Her head and arms are thrown back in tormented sleep. A ghastly demon sits on her chest leering. In these days this was said to be how people explored sex, and the murky areas of the psyche where sex and fear meet. It should also be noted that Dali has said to have been greatly inspired by this particular painting, and was his inspiration for many paintings.

07. Convalescent

Definition: Convalescent
1. Gradual return to health and strength after illness
2. The period needed for returning to health after illness

Gavin sings in part: "He's just scared, about dying"

08. Brushstroke: Walk In The Park

This track, "Walk in the Park" was written by Dino, it was written in an effort to capture one of his personal dreams, which fits with the concept of the album.

09. 18 People Living In Harmony

The lyrics: "The opera is over, singers have all gone home, seats are empty, the kitchen is closed" and "The symphony’s concluded, the instruments are all cased up, the notes are silent, music’s still apparent". The opera/orchestra setting that is being described in this song, relates to Sleep Paralysis. At times suffers of this problem can hear music, sometimes what they were listening to while falling asleep, while other times it is something they have only heard once and do not even remember. While paralyzed the sounds become increasingly more intense, then come to an abrupt end. Take a look at the picture on the album's cover, or from the limited edition album's booklet. The image portrays a bed in the center with an instrument on either side. By taking this into account one can see that the idea of Sleep and Music are evident even on the cover for the album. While many of the lyrics from this song also deal with 'change' and 'modernization', these lyrics in particular refer to items within the idea of Sleep Paralysis.

This song is also most definitely about neglecting art and its various forms. We need to acknowledge our art and various cultures, but instead we modernize our lives and conform to ideals just because we've been fed them.

10. Scissor Lock

#10. the theme. (clue posted on
Track 10 on the album, scissor lock. This song is more about the concept of the album than any other track. Just listen to the lyrics, and the sounds in the song, thus....the theme!

2nd letter of the alphabet...............nimby.? (clue posted on
the 2nd letter of the alphabet is B, which sounds like bee, the insect. When people experience sleep paralysis, they have reported that they hear a buzzing noise, similar to white noise, that turns into the sound of like 100 buzzing bees. In the painting, to the right and up a little bit, one can barely see a bee flying towards the pomegranate. Another reference to the song 'Scissor Lock'. Also, the theory to what 'nimby' means, is that it is an acronym that stands for: 'Not In My Backyard". This is used in some context regarding the erection and placement of power/electricity lines, generators, and/or towers near people's homes. The gist behind the phrase is that people who were against the idea would say, "Not in My Backyard," to those wanting to put up the electric towers, and everyone knows those towers make a buzzing sound.... Hence, this phrase may have something to do with the "white noise/buzzing" theme due to the peripheral sound made by power lines.

11. Brushstroke: Reprise

Definition: Reprise
1. A repetition of a phrase or verse
2. A return to an original theme
3. A recurrence or resumption of an action

One could look at this "brushstroke: reprise" just as the definition points, as a recurrence, in this case the return to the beginning, of the dream state that is, thus the repeated "Same Ol Road". However, one must point out that in this version of "Same Ol Road" the music is slightly different. The cause; "The repeated dream is simply evidence that one's basic issues continue to seethe, seeking to be recognized and resolved. Repeated dreams may wear different costumes, but they reenact the same basic play, which is usually a core issue for the dreamer, or some problem that is currently on her/his mind." In other words this relates perfectly to why the song is brought back yet slightly different.

12. Of The Room

This track, "Of The Room", is an actual recurring dream Gavin has about being smothered, or suffocated. Which is perfect, seeing as many sufferers of Sleep Paralysis have reported that they feel they are being suffocated and can not breathe.

The lyrics: A faceless crowd. Cast shadows. From the corner of the room. Cloudy senses. These fragments of the songs lyrics most likely refer to the fact that many sufferers of sleep paralysis say that through cloudy senses, they have visions of a faceless dark figure in the corner of the room.

13. Brushstroke: An Elephant In The Delta Waves

Delta Wave: between 1 - 3 Hz
This range is the stage of sleep that is the deepest, most rejuvenating stage of dreamless sleep. It provides profound levels of stress reduction, and has a very healing effect on the body. This is the state in which the brain is fully at rest.

In the painting, you can see an elephant in the sky, or in the way it is meant to seem, in sleep or delta waves: An Elephant in the Delta Waves.

Nirvana - (used in the journal/booklet of 'el cielo' for An Elephant in the Delta Waves)
1: (Hinduism and Buddhism) the beatitude that transcends the cycle of reincarnation; characterized by the extinction of desire and individual consciousness.
2: any place of complete bliss and delight and peace.

14. It Only Took A Day

This track was/is Gavin's personal experience of standing inside the painting by Dali. This makes for a very interesting take on the artwork; read the lyrics, listen to the music, it is intended to be Gavin's personal journey through his vision of the painting.

The lyrics: "Fading with growth-lie awake", could easily refer to... Children/Young Adults typically spend 20-25% of sleep in delta wave (see above track for information on this) sleep; this decreases to less than 10% by age 60. Sleepwalking, sleep terrors, and sleep-related enuresis episodes generally occur in this stage.

15. Whoa Is Me

Floating on a dry lake bed: The use of the word "floating" to convey an image, refers directly to the painting, where Gala is floating above the dry ground below her. One can not be certain that this is or is not a "dry lake bed", I would assume not. But, the idea of floating, corresponds to the painting, as well as the dream-like state.

With a dry mouth and a foggy head: The images being portrayed here are directly related to dreams and more importantly Sleep Paralysis. Sufferers of Sleep Paralysis have said they awaken from this state with very a dry mouth and have a hard time remembering some or all of the experience.

At the end of "Whoa is Me"
"That piece was recorded live at the famous One-Second club in 1944. It was inspired by the clarity of consciousness, rather than the vividness of dream. And was the self-proclaimed pinnacle of broken bridges and chest pressure"

One-Second Club in 1944 refers to the painting by Dali, which was painted in 1944, and contains the words One-Second in the title. Chest Pressure refers to the feeling one has during sleep paralysis. Many people who suffer from this disorder say they experience pressure in the chest, and have a hard time breathing.

On March 15, 2004, Chuck Niles passed away. You will recognize his voice from the end of this track, "That Piece was recorded live at the famous "One Second Club" in 1944..." He is not mentioned in any liner notes per his request and it was a tossup as to whether or not to include the information here, but, it was ultimately decided to add it.. Dino used to listen him in college and asked him if he would contribute something to the record, hence his voice. He was a legend in the world of Jazz.

16. The Canyon Behind Her

Japanese speaking voice:
In the first part of this track, there is someone talking in Japanese, when translated it means..."This album was inspired by a painting titled: "Dream Caused By The Flight Of A Bee Around A Pomegranate One Second Before Awakening". It is recommend that you view this painting as you listen to 'El Cielo'. It is as if one stimulus awakens other senses." In other words, it's about "drawing music."

In the painting, if you think about it, there is a canyon behind the woman, Gala, which would be a nice way of getting the title: The Canyon Behind Her.

In analyzing dreams:
The number 16 (the number of this track, or, the total number of tracks on El Cielo) typically signifies spiritual cleansing and the destruction of the old and birth of the new. However, sometimes, in analyzing dreams, you are to add the single digits together, which would be: 1 + 6 = 7. The number 7, denotes mental perfection, healing, completion, music and attainment of high spirituality.

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