This is without a doubt one of my personal favourite moments on the album as the track features guitarist and sonic experimentalist Matt Stevens from The Fierce And The Dead.
Matt and I had a fantastic afternoon arseing about in the studio with this one. When Matt arrived for the session, he was a little worried that I might stipulate a whole raft of guidelines on how or what to play but nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve always felt that the whole point of asking artist to guest on a track was to allow them as much freedom to express themselves as possible. As a result, I simply pressed the record button and told him to indulge himself.
We spent a very happy couple of hours laughing and drinking tea while he created all manner of strange noises with his travelling set-up. The song’s melody line is vintage Matt and it is testament to his inventiveness that a good proportion the sounds you hear during his section (and beyond) were directly from his guitar, then sculpted through a myriad of effects pedals.
From a lyrical perspective, I was also having a lot of fun. This song features Dora’s first direct encounter with a strange trio of characters known as the Envoys. Their function is to effectively act as neutral guides through her dreams, indicating which pathways lead where and allowing Dora to choose a route based upon their information.
These Envoys were individuals I remember dreaming about in my childhood and imagined that all children had such guides who allowed them to enter imaginary realms and guide them out of nightmares should the need arise. I wasn’t sure if Robert would fully understand the nature of these creatures but when I saw the line ‘We are not good, we do not lie’, I knew he’d got it spot on.
From this moment onwards, Dora is accompanied by the three Envoys until she wakes up at the end of the title track.
Of course I understood. In magical terms, they are usually called "servitors", or sometimes "angels" :-)
This is the track that will make or break the listener, I think. Not only will they have to cope with the brilliant sonic mind-buggery of Matt Stevens, they hear the Envoys speak for the first time. All I said to Simon was that their voices should be modulated in some way. I was thinking along the lines of the Slippermen from that good old tome of rock theatrics courtesy of Genesis and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, but also that the Envoys are not human and that their voices should reflect that. It makes the character more individual. What Simon did with a simple vocoder plug-in was superb. Imaginative, original and very modern sounding. Well done, that man!
The Envoys were great fuel for my imagination when I was dreaming up a batch of concept designs for the look of the album. I initially imagined them as three hooded figures standing in columns of light, crackling and flickering in and out of focus like dodgy TV reception, their faces looking like carved bone with wide, grinning megaphone mouths and inset, glowing eyes. Robert's vision was more formal – three suited figures whose features were constantly blurred, three voices speaking in unison. This was how the final version appeared – smart, concise, almost clinical and certainly ethereal. Although they were never used in the final album artwork, if you look in the booklet, you can see three shadows standing against a wall...
We have returned
Our day has come
The circle closed now three are one
We are not good
We do not lie
We are the Envoys, dream or die