at discusses the individual tracks on the album:
- Imaginary Day
"As one of our goals for this record, Lyle (Mays) and I wanted to come up with a vehicle for the fretless classical guitar, a new instrument that I have been practicing on over the last couple of years. We were recalling our recent concert tour to Indonesia and a gamelan concert we attended there. It was an ensemble of 25 Indonesian musicians playing on metal instruments, and it was one of the tightest, most well organized ensemble sounds we had ever heard. I suppose we thought we could draw some influence from that, in that our focus on ensemble playing has also been a priority over the years, and there were things about what they were doing that paralleled our thing even though we draw from different musical vocabularies.So that was the starting place for that tune; us wanting to combine the natural bluesiness of what the fretless guitar offers with something inspired by that Indonesian ensemble sound. This song also marks the first time since "Are You Going With Me?" (from 1981's Offramp) that Lyle has played a synth solo; it's something he's never had much real interest in doing and finally I said, 'Look, if we're trying to come up with this other world for ourselves here, why don't you try to dream up a whole new set of sounds to go with it?' And man, did he ever."
- Follow Me
"If we think of "Imaginary Day" as this album's overture, then "Follow Me" is like once you've entered this new landscape, this piece sets the tone. It's a tune that evolves over its five-minute life, keeps getting thicker and thicker, and does a lot of the things that the group has always been good at, in terms of dynamic building. The theme itself is based on a melody that can be played on any conventional guitar using only natural harmonics, which are sort of buried inside the standard guitar tuning itself. By 'harmonics,' I mean the resonant notes that are embedded in any string; they exist at the half-way point, the quarter-way point, etc., and they are the building blocks of the overtone series."
"Like most guitar players, I find something weirdly attractive about playing harmonics. We all seem to gravitate toward them. When you get a guitar, one of the first things you do is figure out where the harmonics are and play them every now and then - it just feels good when you do it. This is a whole melody based on harmonics, which sets this dreamy tone. But at the same time, there's a rock sort of thing that happens - and happens throughout the album. If We Live Here had an R & B flavor, this one has a rock flavor. American Garage was also in this zone, but I think this album is more rock, and it's certainly more sophisticated. In addition, I think "Follow Me" has a particularly "'90's" rock feel to it. It's not like '60s-reference rock. I try to keep my ear to the ground, in terms of listening for what the flavor is, the kinds of beats people use, just the basic clave of the time in regard to the guitar thing, and all that. This tune, probably more than anything else on the record, has that vibe."
- Into The Dream
"It serves as an introduction to the following track, and it's played entirely on the 42-string pikasso guitar. There are no overdubs, just a solo piece. One of the great features of the instrument is that you can make it sound as if there are two or three people playing; it allows you to create that illusion. There's a special tuning that I've developed that has the guitar part of the instrument tuned very low, and the higher, ringing strings tuned very high, so you get a complete range of tones that aren't far away from the range of the piano."
- A Story Within The Story
"Probably the one tune that sounds most like the conventional "pmg" sound, with guitar and piano playing the melody, acoustic bass playing a fairly complicated line, Paul (Wertico) playing a more-or-less even eighth-notes beat that's led by the cymbals. It's based on a blues-type form, but it's in some weird time signature. I didn't even think about it, I just wrote it out as a bunch of quarter-notes. It ends up being four bars of Ý/¢ time and a bar of Ü/¢, that's the basic beat.
It was a chance to have one tune on there that's got a long guitar solo with what I call narrative playing that's more connected to the jazz guitar tradition. It also features a first for us, an improvised trumpet solo by Mark Ledford. In addition to being a fantastic singer/multi-instrumentalist, he's one of my favorite young trumpet players, with an incredible sound and an almost Freddie Hubbard-like conception. His solo functions as a story within the story."
- The Heat Of The Day
"A very complex, uptempo piece that has connections to Iranian folk music, flamenco and this imaginary music we were trying to dream up to go with our imaginary day. We wanted to find a playing form that had several arcs in it, like you find in flamenco music with things building and building and building to a peak, and then it calms back down again. That basic structure was what we were looking at as a goal, but to have a piano solo and a guitar solo that follow each other with this long arc built into it, with a complex time structure. Compositionally, it may be the most involved tune on the album, or one of them."
- Across The Sky
A ballad featuring conventional electric guitar, which is rare on this album. There's only this song and "A Story Within The Story" that feature the electric guitar sound that most people probably associate with me (played here on the recently released Ibanez Metheny signature model). Pretty much everything else on the record is some exotic instrument or synth guitar or weird acoustic guitar.
"This tune has an unusual form, with an introduction that's never repeated before setting up this theme that does recur throughout the piece. But it has a different structure than our normal tunes. Many of our songs use the a-a-b-a form; this one, I don't even know if i could write down what it is - it just starts and keeps going. And the playing form has a different kind of bridge than what we normally write. In that sense it reflects a lot of Lyle's interest in having tune forms that aren't conventional song forms. We always try to find a balance between those two things. I'm always looking, regardless of how compositional it's going to be, for song-like things in there, like a melody or a hook. Something that will have a song-like connotation. With "Across The Sky" we found a good balance between the two approaches."
- The Roots Of Coincidence
"I think this will be a stand-out on the album, and probably within our entire recorded output. It unfolds over a couple of minutes into something that would sound appropriate on a modern thrash-metal album, for lack of a better term. We've never gotten into that zone on a Group album, although the capacity for that to happen has certainly always been there. Compositionally, I think it's our best work on the record. Over its almost eight minutes it goes through a whole range of moods and dynamic points and very abrupt changes from one thing to the next. More than anything, it really rocks, which has always been part of our potential that I don't think we've ever really captured on a recording until this track.
"This is another tune that began with the idea of it being a vehicle for a new guitar sound; the particular sound I use on this track is a combination of a bunch of things layered together, but it's all revolving around the vg-8. The synth bass that starts the whole thing becomes the ostinato figure the piece is based on. It's doubled by Steve Rodby's electric bass.
"Right off the bat, it's a little bit different for us. Generally, most of our rhythms are based on the ride cymbal, it's always been the main source of time for most of our stuff. This is one of the few tunes we've got that's driven from the bottom up. There are loops that work in conjunction with Paul's playing, something we learned more about on We Live Here that is only used occasionally on this one. Usually, when you hear this kind of music you don't hear any significant chord changes; but this one has got an extended set of blowing changes for the guitar solo and they're all built into the composition. It's an interesting hybrid for me, to see what can happen when that kind of guitar sound meets those kind of chord changes meets that kind of bass line - and then that whole sonic world expands into an almost chamber orchestra extension of what the early part of the tune might suggest if looked at from another angle. I think of this as a kind of music that never could have existed until now; in the late 1990's."
- Too Soon Tomorrow
"A ballad I wrote as we were making the record. There was a point where the album seemed that it might be a little relentless, with a lot of stylistic jump-cutting. We needed something to let things settle for a minute. I wrote this over a couple of nights of staying late in the studio after everyone else had gone, then played it for everybody, and we just recorded it in the middle of everything. It turned out to be just what the record needed toward the end, before we moved on to the final, long part of the story."
- The Awakening
"The main thematic material was something I'd come up with - really the ONLY thing I'd come up with - from before the time Lyle and I started working on this project that actually ended up on the record. It's an odd combination of an almost-Irish melody with an almost-Moroccan rhythm pattern. Lyle used it as a starting point for his melodic development skills. The whole second section that's based on my melody is almost like his variation on it.
"The effect of the whole thing at the end of the record is a wake-up call; it's been this long journey, this long dream; you've gone to all these different places and this really feels like you're back on earth. It also features a great Lyle solo."