Ice Burns

Origin

Even though I consider myself to be a primarily electric guitar player, intricate acoustic guitar playing has always fascinated me.  Dave Matthews’ early material was a great influence in terms of using tricky acoustic riffs in rock context, but the role model for this song was a criminally overlooked indie Christian folk duo, Harrod & Funck.  Their album Dreams of a Color Blind contains this exquisite song Hand Draws Flowers, built upon this most intricate acoustic guitar pattern that I had heard.  I made myself learn that song, figured out what gave it the sound it had, and dreamed of writing something like that.

Music & Production

Obviously built around the central acoustic guitar part, I had always envisioned this song with very sparse instrumentation — perhaps understated strings/synths in the background.

But, when it came time to record World of No Errors I also knew that I didn’t have the performance chops to really pull off that demanding guitar part perfectly.  I needed other elements in the arrangement to mask the imperfections my guitar part would contain.  So to be consistent with the acoustic-band-live-in-studio theme I added a minimalist bass and drum parts.

When Bob and I heard what came together, we both scratched our heads and wondered if this arrangement misses the strongest part of the song.  With the rhythm section in place the acoustic guitar blends into the backdrop a lot more instead of being the centerpiece.  But when Bob recorded his lead vocals the drum parts in his headphones were bleeding into the vocal mic, so we would have to re-track the vocal if we were to remove the rhythm section.

So, we decided to keep it as is for World of No Errors.  The regular beat seems to give it more comforting feel and balances out the aching and longing in the words, but this version certainly is not bad by any means.  We’re hoping we’ll have another go at this song in the future, to see if we can better capture what we originally heard in this song.

Lyrics

The challenge here was to put a lot of emotional words in melodies that can contain only a handful of syllables.  It’s one of those songs that really gets at a feeling we all carry, though what gives us this feeling is probably completely different from person to person.

Looking at my ice burns
Try hard to feel the pain
A black dot on a thousand screens
So white and plain
And pale and so weightless
Am I?

Locked away from the boundless sky
I long to feel
And I hurt to breathe
Once more

Shallow and so dry
My stream’s slow death
Call me and let me hear me cry
Like a new-born’s breath
Like a beam through a cloud
Am I so afraid?

Locked away from the boundless sky
I long to feel
And I hurt to be
With you

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