In a dreaming state, the human brain emits slow delta brain waves, breathing becomes shallow and the heart rate speeds up. At this point, the strange illusions and scenarios that take place during our sleep occur. Here lies the muse for artists like Corey Grand, whose recent release, Cold Wax EP, drew inspiration from a year of intense dreams.
Through a precise crafting of synthesized sounds, Grand creates a dark world where anxiety meets the stillness of sleep. And while it utilizes drums and synthesizers possibly reminiscent of club beats and hip-hop, Cold Wax plays to deeper and more subdued landscapes. An experience that's like waking up in a bed that isn't your own, he offers an intimate glimpse into his innermost self.
"Last year, I don't know why, but I was having crazy dreams — like crazy, crazy dreams," Grand says. "I would have a lot of sleep paralysis, you know, where you wake up and can't move. And everybody has those here and there but last year it was super-intense. And, personally, I do believe them to be a little bit spiritual. So I was having these really intense dreams and I thought it'd be cool to try and take that, something that doesn't physically exist, and try and take that energy and turn it into music."
Though safe in sleep, the power of these dreams carried a physical presence to Grand, affecting his music. On the EP, amidst the overall nocturnal atmosphere, bolts of power come through on tracks like "Lucid Dream" and "Rain Dance." These intense contrasts of energy came directly from the strange dreams.
"They'd just be so crazy," Grand says. "In one I had, I fell asleep and woke right back up but dozed off again. This one, there felt like there was something right above me, just hovering. And whatever was above me just fell and I just woke up. It was really intense. So I just tried to take that energy and turn it into something."
Crossing aural, visual and textile senses, the connections between music and other sensory experiences play an important role to Grand both as composer and listener.
"For me, when I hear certain music I think of something visual," Grand says. "Usually, if I hear music and can't think of anything visual, I probably won't like it. I really believe that if you create music, you should be creating something that's visually stimulating. I mean, you can't see music, obviously."
With each event inspiring a particular musical passage, Grand evokes his visions through specific sounds. In an impressionist manner, he delves into abstract sonic worlds to create a more concrete representation.
"So I was just thinking of chords and different types of sounds and abstract sounds that kind of go along with what I was dreaming of," Grand says. "Not technical like 808s [a popular 1980s drum machine] or hi hats or anything like that. When I think of certain chords or certain sounds, it just puts a picture in my head. I kind of use that same method for creating."
Grand's abilities as a composer particularly show on the track "Rain Dance." The primary synthesizer riff is beautifully adorned with a light static noise that sounds like light rain. Drenched layers accompany a crisp and rolling drum pattern that takes the forefront and fills out the track. With a well-executed shift, attention gets drawn to a synth riff, along with elements of hip-hop and modern styles of electronic music. No real specific definition lends itself well to this music. This sort of "anti-genre electronic" presents itself often these days and Grand supports it in his regular gigs as he and DJ ESO spin every Sunday night at B-Side Liquor Lounge in Cleveland Heights.
"That's kinda the cool part about being a DJ and a producer," he says of the B-Side gig. "So, I might do a party where I'll play a lot of club music maybe more hip-hop or more new things or I might do a set where I might get to mix in both. And that's kind of how Sunday is. It's kinda fun to be able to experiment to see how you can mix up different genres of things people would never try to mix in together."
The British magazine Melody Maker once referred to an electronic band's album as "daft punk," accidentally naming that band. A similar vibe is given off at Grand and ESO's Sunday nights at B-Side. Where anything from Drake to Flying Lotus is played and the expansiveness of electronic music, the disregard for prescribed genres is giving way to a new generation of daft punk.
"For the most part, I don't like to use the word 'genre' because genre places things in a box," Grand says. "I always feel like America is a big country that likes to place things in a box. Like if an actor did an action movie, they don't want him to do something else. It's cool to have people that don't believe in boxes and being boxed in. So, me and him are two people who don't believe in being boxed in, so we'll play so much music on Sundays it doesn't even make sense. But everybody enjoys it though. Even people who come out that don't really know music still enjoy themselves."
Musically meshing with others in this adventurous style, Grand found himself in a host of collaborations. Notable collaborations include a long running one with the Cleveland musician Freeze-Tag on "Love In You," from Grand's previous release, underneath.
Working with Freeze-Tag, the two started the imprint Long Division Recordings. Similar to how independent record labels are less based around business and more about style, imprints offer a new way for listeners to find similar artists.
"I believe in building things organically," Grand says. "I don't believe in forced relationships. Now, if I like an artist, and I want to work with them we'll probably do an EP together, rather than just a track or two here and there. I don't feel like I make production for the average rapper or artist. So I'm just really big on working with people because I like them. I believe on getting together organically, rather than false or fake relationships. I'd rather do it that way, you can tell when the relationship's forced."
Through natural human connections and subconscious music creations, Grand's musical philosophy comes to fruition on the Cold Wax EP, an outstanding presentation of daft punk.