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“The Trembling Ground” – The Sound of seismicity

Track 3 on “Time Shift”

The lyrics of this track are self-explanatory, even for someone who has never been on a mine site. When I wrote it, the lyrics were the easy parts. Expressing the ideas in music was a different challenge altogether. This is how I did it: I expressed the feeling of going underground in a cage and coming up again, with machine-sounding synth instruments playing rising and falling arpeggios. I expressed the trembling ground with a fast, high-reverb beat, and added a stuttering, droning Step FX to the vocals.

To get the melody to sound as close as I could to what I was describing as the “trembling”, I took a recording of an underground rock burst, known as a “bump” – the one shown in the music video as a seismic readout – and matched the amplitude and frequency of the readout to notes. Out of that, I shaped the melody. Then I recorded the lyrics – a man’s voice – and comped the vocals to fit. The sound engineer, Luke Garfield, did the rest to make the vocals sound as deep and somber as possible, to make sure that every word was clear, and to give the song a feeling of rising tension by using specific mixing techniques and strategies.

I actually wrote the lyrics long ago, and called it “Mining Lullaby”, because despite feeling the bumps from underground, and knowing that the work was dangerous, I felt secure and happy – I knew that the engineers and geologists were able to keep us safe. Maybe I was naive, but the bumps were just part of life on the mine.

Track on Soundcloud

Credits are in the video; video footage from and


Here I explain the meanings of the terms that I use in the lyrics.


I  feel the trembling of the earth,
I feel it through the floor,
when workers drill the longholes 
to blast gold-bearing ore.

The hanging wall is crumbling, 
and the earth is shifting 'round,
but I sleep soundly, like a child, 
above the trembling ground.

The tunnels underground are hot, 
three thousand metres deep.
The cages down are rockets, 
descending into heat.
The pressure keeps on building, 
till the spalling rocks resound.
But I sleep like my heart is pure, 
above the trembling ground.

I miss the days on the gold mine, 
where the headgears whine and creak,  
and the bumps go off all through the night, 
and rock me in my sleep.

Previous track – The Ocean in E

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