Creating The Triptych
"Illusions will inspire you too..."
It was June 2021, and following a week of final edits, the mix of The Wayfarer Triptych had been completed at last and sent off to Augmented Sounds for mastering.
So, how did they get on?
Well, before we tell you that, something else got finalised that same week, so we’ll first need to go back in time a little bit.
Ever since we originally devised the idea of The Wayfarer Triptych, back in January 2018, we knew the cover art should be of a triptych painting. What this triptych would look like, and the part it would play in the narrative of the album, remained unknown to us, but once we began writing our story properly in October 2020, it all began to become a little clearer.
We’re now going to attempt to explain The Wayfarer Triptych in a little more detail to you, and though we will attempt to remain as spoiler free as possible, we are going to assume two things:
You read our album announcement on July 14th and thus know Wayfarer… is the story of girl who, “inspired by her discovery of an extraordinary and beguiling triptych painting, embarks on an epic journey through the remains of a broken world”
You’ve listened to Nightfall in the Labyrinth so are aware that, on the third track of the album, the girl is pursued through a ruined city surrounded by a great wall of mist, and that at the song’s conclusion she runs into the mist in the hope that salvation may lie beyond. The title of the following track Of Mist, Mountain and Sea should give some clue as to where she ends up next…
Now, some new information.
Wayfarer… takes place in an ancient, fantastical world vastly, but not totally, different to our own. The titular triptych can be found in the ruined city the girl has fled from by the end of Nightfall…, and her aforementioned discovery of it takes place one track earlier, in Awakening. It is here that we find the first lyrical reference to what this triptych actually depicts:
"Between depictions of discord and harmony
Stands The Wayfarer before a pillar of light
Encircled by The Myrehsia Tree"
There’s a little to unpack here so bear with us…
We should mention, firstly, that the painting is not actually called ‘The Wayfarer Triptych’. In fact it doesn’t really have a name at all, and is referred to merely as ‘The Triptych’. The title The Wayfarer Triptych was therefore always intended to have a double meaning, referring not just to The Triptych itself (and The Wayfarer whom it depicts), but also how the album is a 3 part story about a long journey - in essence ‘a triptych about wayfaring’.
The Wayfarer is the mysterious figure seen standing in the middle panel of The Triptych, described (a little earlier) in Awakening as “a higher being foretold to guide the people to a faraway mystical tree…”, who was therefore responsible for man's enlightenment and thus became deified by humanity and immortalised in The Triptych.
The Myrehsia Tree (which we have just learned is both mystical and faraway), is the central power of the world in question, from which all life is formed - not wholly dissimilar to the idea of a 'world tree', which exists in the religions and mythologies of many cultures. The source of The Myrehsia Tree’s power is a heavenly song which flows through its core (represented visually as a glorious beam of light), maintaining the delicate balance of all things.
Writing Wayfarer… involved inventing a few new words, of which Myrehsia is one. On October 1st you’ll also come across two more Across The Sea inventions: Eytrva and Sehtyri (a fourth word Ehsian was ultimately cut as part of ‘The Great Cull of Serenity and Chaos 2020’ which we’ve mentioned before). The process for inventing these words wasn’t an exact science, involving such approaches as random word generators, combining names of Sumerian deities, and lots of respelling. Perhaps once the album is out we’ll explain where each word comes from.
The Wayfarer, The Triptych, The Myrehsia Tree, The Song of The Tree. Lots of capital T’s. Well, they’re all sacred in the world of The Wayfarer Triptych you see, and so another useful piece of information we acquired while creating this album was the existence of the term ‘reverential capitalisation’…
The Triptych is referenced several times in the lyrics of the album and, as the writing process rumbled on, we were both perfectly confident that each of us had a clear enough image in our minds of what this most important of paintings actually looked like. Hannah understood it well enough to write lyrics about it, and Pete understood it well enough to write music to represent it.
But what would happen when The Triptych had to actually be drawn?
Well, we were going to have to do something we’d never done before: hire an artist.
Hannah had previously done all Across The Sea artwork. And not just the cover art for I, Wanderer, Infinite Worlds and Behind the Looking Glass: individual song artwork, posters, business cards, banners, you name it, she did it all. But what you see on all these previous designs is photo-editing (I, Wanderer, for example, is of course a heavily edited photo of Pete, stood on Worthing beach, looking out to sea.) As the world present in The Wayfarer Triptych isn’t actually real (though there have been times over the past 2 years when, for one or other of us, this didn’t seem the case), it would be a little difficult for Hannah to edit a photo of a triptych that doesn’t actually exist…and so the search began for an artist/illustrator with the right style and skills to bring The Triptych to life.
While scouring the internet for artists, we decided it’d be useful if we provided a rough drawing of The Triptych to accompany the written brief, and so we dusted off our pencil cases….
The results of our individual attempts looked like two entries into a primary school art competition, but proved a couple of important things: we both had more or less the same idea of what The Triptych looked like; it was absolutely the right course of action to hire somebody else to draw it.
Having found a handful of artists who were working in the style we wanted, we spent some time going through them together, and one stood out from all the others: Angelina Andreas, a concept artist based in London, whose portfolio showed an incredible collection of work in precisely the style we wanted for Wayfarer... We contacted Angelina and, having sent her our design brief, were very pleased to learn that she loved the concept of the artwork and the album itself, and was therefore happy to take on the commission.
A couple of days later Angelina sent us her first draft. It was as if we were stood in front of The Triptych itself, witnessing it for the first time just as the girl does in Awakening. How Angelina had managed to capture so perfectly, and in so much detail, what we were visualising we’ll never know (though we suspect it was unlikely thanks to the juvenile doodlings we’d provided). She then patiently dealt with several increasingly pedantic edit requests, and soon enough The Triptych was completed to perfection.
We later commissioned Angelina a second time, to provide the artwork for the single release of Nightfall in the Labyrinth, and once again she nailed it, presenting us with a piece that perfectly brought the ruined city setting of the song to life. It’s one of our biggest regrets on Wayfarer… that our very limited budget couldn't stretch to asking Angelina to do more artwork for the booklet, to represent later story points, but for what she did provide, we can’t thank her enough. Please take a moment to visit her website and check out her amazing work.
These budgetary constraints meant the rest of the design work on Wayfarer… was down to Hannah, including the actual background for the front cover: an eerie misty setting which was achieved by creating a brush effect on Photoshop from the splash on our band logo (everything is connected!). This same mist effect stretches onto the back cover and inside of the CD packaging, and the print on the CD itself. A strange, prophetic couplet is scrawled across the inside packaging, one which will become very important on October 1st:
"One shall emerge from the veil of grey
Light the world with wisdom's flame…"
Due to the conceptual nature of the album, Hannah agreed (for the first time ever) to have her lyrics printed, which means The Wayfarer Triptych is the first Across The Sea release to require her to design a lyric booklet. Every element of the CD packaging, from the front cover down to the style and size of each font in the booklet, has been thought out with the same attention to detail we applied to the music itself. This is the most complete presentation we’ve ever had on one of our releases and, to immerse yourselves fully in what we’ve created, we strongly suggest purchasing the CD and listening to this album in its entirety with the lyric booklet in your hand - it’ll be worth it we promise you.
And so, with all the artwork completed, the album could now go to print!
Waaaait….what about the mastering?
Ah yes, we did say we’d come back to that.
When Pete finished mixing I, Wanderer (we use the term mixing very loosely here...), we both genuinely believed that, in order to make the 4 songs on the EP as loud as other artists released tracks, he could just crank the master volume up on each recording file...
A few minutes and a lot of clipping later, we realised this was not the case, and what was actually needed was a mastering engineer.
And so, the only person other than ourselves to be involved with every Across The Sea release is Andrew Croft, the mastermind behind Augmented Sounds, who remains the one person we trust to touch our songs.
Having had months of messages from Hannah saying things like "Pete will have the mix finished in a week or so.", "Sorry for the delay but he's nearly done now...", and "I think he is still mixing the album, but I'm sure he'll finish it at some point...", Augmented Sounds finally received the completed album mix.
A week later the full master was returned to us.
How did it go?
Well, you’ve all heard Nightfall in the Labyrinth so how do you think it went?! We would explain in more detail what actually happens in mastering, but it is a dark art far beyond our comprehension. But what Augmented Sounds achieved on their master of The Wayfarer Triptych, we will be eternally grateful for. It sounds massive and we can’t wait for you to hear it in full.
That brings us to the end of the penultimate edition of ‘Creating The Triptych’, see you next week for the final chapter…
Copyright (c) Across The Sea 2022