CLUB LATE MUSIC x GLOBAL URL NATION
THE GREAT SLEEP
The Great Sleep is a series of 13 narrative audio mixes that will be aired on Internet Public Radio every first Thursday of the month from December 2019 to December 2020. For each episode, a musician and a visual artist from the Global URL Nation collaborate to develop the story with audiovisual material - a 1h mix and a visual cover, which then serve as a base for written text. Each month, we will post a new chapter meant to be heard, seen and read.[Listen on Internet Public Radio]
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As we exit from the grove and start walking, the stranger looks down on me :
“Thank you for helping me… The Reapers, they came from nowhere… Without you, they would have fed on my scales probably for hours. I’m lucky we crossed paths.”
“I feel bad for getting you into this mess. But like I said, I know someone who can help us break the bond. You’ll be free in no time... Where were you headed anyway?”
“I’m not sure… I’ve been lost for a while now.”
“I see… This fragment of yours, where did you get it?”
“Some strange old woman gave it to me. It’s been nice to me, but I don’t know anymore… What about yours?”
“It’s been given to me as a child. We grew up together. These people you met, they told me to follow its voice. It’s supposed to take me somewhere... I have been wandering for a while, looking for this place, gathering any information I could. These fragments are pretty rare these days. Maybe our meeting was meant to happen...”
Their fragment warbles with a delicate sound. I want to know more about our journey :
“This bond… Where are you taking us?”
“To the Forbidden Metropolis. There is a place there, which helps to amplify the voices of the fragments. But first, we need to find a key to the Metropolis. I know where to find one.”
I stay silent. I don’t really know what to make with all of this. First the group, then this intriguing creature and these ghosts.. and now a forbidden city? I’m confused… But maybe I will be able to find some answers. I have been walking aimlessly for too long. It feels good to have a purpose for once. The stranger seems to understand my distress :
“By the way, you can call me Sylenth”, they say with a recomforting smile.
We keep walking through forests and grasslands, sticking together to keep the relentless specters asleep on our tail. Sylenth keeps recounting their adventures : the places they’ve seen, the people they met, the creatures they encountered… Sometimes they seem unreal, as if coming out of their mind, but we both pretend to believe it, as their stories keep us entertained through the day. It feels good not to be alone anymore. It helps to fill the void inhabiting me since I woke up.
After a few days, the soil turns into sand as we reach a scarlet red sea. I still don’t know where we are headed. I’m exhausted and it just feels pointless. I decide to grab my fellow traveler by the arm to stop them :
“Do you really know where we are going?”
“There’s a city behind these dunes.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“It's where I grew up.”
I don’t say anything else, turning my tired gaze towards the blood mirror of this ocean which spread out before our eyes. Small tornadoes of sand rise behind us, lifted up by the wind which comes from the horizon. As we walk along the shore, the dunes unravel a large expanse of sand, filled with huge carcasses of ocean liners. A sort of industrial cemetery full of overlapping wrecked ships. Sylenth smiles at me :
“You see? What did I tell you? Come on, let’s get to it before it’s too dark.”
We get closer, and I realize this pile of steel and rust is actually the city Sylenth was talking about. My eyes raise and I discern silhouettes all over, moving parts and assembling them to make this fortress stand upright, rooted in the ground where an entire civilization seems to hide and survive. We sink into this metallic landscape that closes up behind us as we move forward. I continue to closely follow my partner, while those sleeping ectoplasms keep floating above us.
The insides of this artificial beast is even more impressive. Metal plates, scraps and ship parts are stacked on top of another over several floors, shading the dim light of a setting sun. Hundreds of creatures hastily move in all directions, cutting, carrying, welding, trading small and large pieces alike, turning them into makeshift shelters. Some of them are humans, some of them resemble Sylenth... some others I’m not even sure. We progress with difficulty among the crowd, through many hanging wires and loose pieces of cloth. I feel overwhelmed. All these bits and parts, the continuous sound of unrest, the strong and bitter smell of rust and sweat… I hold tightly the fragment in my pocket, trying not to lose sight of Sylenth. Its warmth reassures me.
From one winding street to another, we end up in front of a stall with no sign. Thousands of meaningless tools are hung on the walls. In the back of the shop, a man comes out of the darkness. The left half of his face is marked with a severe burn injury. I don’t say anything, confused by my presence here, in this semblance of civilization, but which I barely recognize. Sylenth initiates the discussion :
“We need a key to the Forbidden Metropolis.”
“What do you have to give in exchange?”, replies the man with a low voice.
“I have sound runes from the Silent Mountains.”
“I don't want your runes, they’re useless in here. I want something more precious, something I could sell.”
The shop owner stares at me, as if he could feel something about me. He then says in his nasal, chopped voice :
“A ... a friend?”
“What’s up with you? Do you have anything of interest?”
Sylenth turns to me, insisting with their stare as if solving the problem depended on my answer.
“I have nothing”, I say.
“See? Nothing... You are wasting my time”, replies the shop owner.
The man with the burnt face is about to leave when I suddenly remember :
“I have this…”
I take the mask out of my pocket and place it on the worn out countertop :
“Ooooh! An anonymask…”
“Yes, that's it, exactly”, I reply, as if I knew what it was.
“Hmmmmmm, well, very well, hold on...”
The man disappears in the back shop. I turn to my traveling companion. They stare at me with an intrigued face :
“Where did you find that …?”
“They left it to me…”
“You don't know what it is, right?”
“This is a ritual mask that synchronizes the dance of those who use it.”
“I saw these dancers.”
“You haven't seen their faces.”
“But I saw them dancing.”
“You saw their dance but not their face.”
I search in my memories and that’s true : I only remember the dance, its power, its cohesion but not the face of these dancers.
“There it is.”
The burnt-face man comes back with a key without engraving. It looks like a rectangular piece of metal, only a few millimeters thick. We take it and before we leave, he mumbles :
“The key only grants you access to the Metropolis. You’ll need a guide if you don’t want to stay there forever.”
“Don’t worry about us”, Sylenth replies smoothly, as we walk away from the stall.
The next morning, we take the road up North. After a few hours, we find ourselves in a desert of dry sand and dead trees. The scarlet red sea and its industrial shore are barely visible behind us. Sometimes I look up, above us, where the ectoplasms continue to float like lazy clouds. A smile appears on my face. I don’t know why... Maybe because I feel like I'm not alone anymore. I look again at this massive creature who walks by my side. They seem reassuring to me now. I look at them and decide to ask more about this intense place we just left :
“Is it where you grew up? In this city?”
“Sort of... I was travelling a lot but it is in this city that I used to stay most of the time. It’s called Impulse Bay, it’s a nomadic lodge. People go there to collect things: keys, passwords, items, plugs…”
“And the Forbidden Metropolis?”
“We call it that way, but it's not really forbidden. It’s just a big city that was once plundered. It was a meeting point before it became a bad place. Now it’s been closed, but it’s still possible to enter by using special keys.”
“What are we going to do there?”
“There is a place in this city, where we can get rid of these parasites. It’s called the Blender. It will allow us to break the bond that our fragments and our bodies have created with the Reapers.”
“A sort of energy?”
“Yes, the one you sometimes hear or feel.”
“What is that?”
“No one really knows.. it's in us, that's what brings music to life. These ectoplasms feed from it, they graft like parasites until exhaustion. But when two fragments coordinate, if their phase is not perfectly aligned, it disorients the Reapers. They’re neutralized, waiting for any opening to start feeding again. Only another fragment or the Blender is powerful enough to shift their focus away from us…”
I nod, trying to record all the information he just gave me while the sky slowly darkens. Sylenth stops suddenly, their scales all open. They inspect the horizon with great attention. I don’t see a thing :
“What is it?”, I ask.
“A White Noise Storm... We have to take shelter!”
Sylenth grabs me by the wrist and takes me towards a ditch, the bed of a dry river. They throw me into it and join me hastily. We hear the wind rising, its whistling getting more and more intense. And yet nothing seems to move around us. The dead trees are almost completely static. The sand as well. Sylenth covers my ears with their hand. We snuggle up against each other. The hissing starts to become painful. The sound gusts make us completely deaf. A sort of heterogeneous mixture of clashing sound waves. Sylenth’s scales are completely withdrawn, as in a defensive position. I reach for the fragment in my pocket. It’s cold, lifeless. Nothing seems to happen around us. The sounds get louder and harsher. My ears start to ring in extreme pain. I feel dizzy. I close my eyes. Sylenth presses their hands more firmly around my head.
The noise stops suddenly, but my ears are still buzzing. We hear the storm continuing its course on the road we were on a few minutes ago. I look up to my fellow traveler. I stare at them, not sure if they are real or not. They get up, grab my hand and help me to stand up.
The full recovery of my hearing takes days, during which I stay in shock. I follow closely Sylenth through this dry landscape made of sand and rocky plateaus, until we reach the so-called metropolis.
In front of us stand two colossal gates, tens of meters high, caught between fortified walls extending endlessly left and right. The two gates are veiled by a rusty harrow, on which green moss has grown for years.
Sylenth takes out the key and inserts it into a metal bollard, a two-meter high machine made of steel, whose only peculiarity is a square-shaped hole. The harrow rises in a heavy, slow metallic noise. The gigantic, thick and overwhelming panels slide on each side, suggesting the sound of worn out pulleys, ready to collapse.
As soon as we enter this mysterious city, the gates immediately close behind us. In front of us is a long dusty avenue. On each side, there are signs of old and strange shops, which blink in fuzzy and phosphorescent colors. Far away, we can hear a heavy muffled sound, striking repeatedly. Each knock shakes the dust that has accumulated over the years on the street and the surrounding buildings. I feel that there is life here. People are hiding. I see shadows and silhouettes passing in front of us and behind the cracked windows.
“Do you know where the Blender is?”
“No, but I have an old friend here. She’ll take us there.”
I continue to follow Sylenth. They keep moving their scales subtly as we walk. Shadows appear and disappear on the walls of the buildings, as if excited by their metallic sounds.
“Who are those odd people?”
“We call them Cravers. They hide in here to listen to sounds day and night. They stay here because they don’t know where else to go. They are obsessed with noises, frequencies, vibrations… but they don’t discern what is real or not anymore. They’re not dangerous, don’t worry... just a little bit creepy.”
We keep walking down the avenue. I am silent. My eyes catch a still silhouette in front of us, blurred by the flying dust. It looks like a girl. We slow down carefully when she starts speaking :
“Sylenth... Long time no see... Didn’t expect to hear these scales of yours so soon”, she says with a longing smile.
Sylenth shrugs and smiles back at her. She approaches and stops in front of us. She looks at me straight in the eyes. They’re all black. No retina. She notices the floating ectoplasms above us :
“Reapers... I see.”
She turns back and signals us to follow her with her head. Sylenth walks ahead of me, alongside the dark-eyed girl. I hear them exchange a few words, but I can’t really make sense of it. We walk down a few streets until we reach what seems to be an abandoned building. We enter through a hole on its flank. We go through several spacious rooms with tiny windows, up and down stairways and intricate corridors until we reach a massive sphere-shaped room.
In its center lies the Blender, a circular platform with two chairs sculpted in stone. Some unknown symbols are carved on its periphery. A wire connects each symbol to the outer shell in a perfectly symmetric way.
We climb up the monument and we both take place in a chair. We put the fragments in a bowl, carved in the armrests. They don’t seem to activate anything. We wait. Nothing happens. The silence is heavy. The dark-eyed girl starts talking, as if she was trying to introduce us to the Blender… When she stops, we hear an explosive sound, like a gong, resonating across the room. Sylenth shouts towards me :
“We have to find the perfect synchronicity to break the bond!”
I feel stuck to the chair. My whole body is vibrating. The fragments start to light up more strongly. I don’t know what they want me to do. I don’t know where to start.
“Just start with what you feel in your heart, I’ll follow you”, Sylenth says.
I try to empty my mind, to reconnect with my feelings. A sound comes out of the fragment. The Blender seems to amplify its voice, which is now filling the entire space. It’s a chord, repeating again and again, without ending. I don’t know what is going on. I try to take it in other directions, but it keeps playing the same thing on and on, steadily. I feel frustrated, powerless, incompetent. Another time. And another. And another. Time and time again. Continuously. I want to give up, but I don’t have a choice, the Reapers are still here, floating in the center of the Blender. The chord keeps repeating.
I try to remember when the fragment opened up its voice to me, how it made me feel part of a whole, connected to my surroundings. I try to remember the freedom I felt when dancing with the group, the delicacy of their movements… how their sounds brought us all together. I try to focus on the chord, as if it was running through my veins. As if each part of my body was a different note composing it. As if I was the one filling up this gigantic space. As if I was nothing but these repeated frequencies.
The chord changes its pitch suddenly. I hear the voice of the other fragment joining in. They both start to shift colors slowly. I feel exalted :
“You see? Try focusing on these changes. Follow their impulses. They will lead you where they want to be.”
I struggle to keep the momentum going. The chord gets back to its initial state. I have a hard time understanding where it wants to go. It just feels random, heartless. I focus on its details. On how every repetition unveils a new trait of its personality, until it just becomes pure frequencies, devoid of any consistency. Just like when you keep repeating the same word over and over. I listen closely to every little sound composing it, and I try to cherish each one of them as a crucial element of a bigger whole. Each with its own characteristics. Each with its own motive.
“There, I have it.”
It changes pitch again. The other fragment joins in and completes the chord with new sounds. I feel like Sylenth knows what they’re doing. They seem to take the fragment’s voice exactly where they want to be. On my end, I’m barely able to keep the changes consistent. But I feel more confident. It’s a weird back and forth between where Sylenth or I want to take the sound, and what it wants to become by itself. A triad symbiosis, in which we adjust according to the other two.
The chord accelerates and morphs even more. The more I feel tuned to Sylenth and to the sound, the more it accelerates, getting higher and higher in pitch. An intense light starts to come out of the fragments, reflected by the platform and the metallic shell covering the walls. The chord just keeps playing faster and faster, louder and louder, until a blazing burst of light illuminates the space entirely, followed by an extreme silence…