NOW OUT: The Guelph-based indie music project Paradox Arcade today released its debut single, “The World That We Know” (RCS Records), a song of hope that calls out the artifices and illusions that cause division and disillusion, and inspires people to look beyond to the better world we can all create.

“Each of us in our own way and capacity reaches for a better world,” says Xristopher Bland (often simply called ‘X’), indie music composer, author of the song, and creator of the cover art called The Reaching. “Even if we can’t see it or fall to the doubts and opinions of others, we know it’s there. We feel its existence.”

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“The Reaching” – Cover art for “The World That We Know” by Xristopher Bland

Reflecting this, the song also reflects the present state of the world, characterized by Oxfam as a decidedly broken world of “extreme inequality” where a one person dies every four seconds due to inequality, and now just 90 seconds to midnight, according to the latest report by Statista.

  • “Global inequalities are in bad shape and mostly do not appear to be getting better. Disparities today are about the same as they were in the early 20th”—International Monetary Fund

“Many maintain our current world state has resulted from the designs of the few,” says Xris, creator of the Paradox Arcade indie music project. “When you add up the pernicious effects of things like corporate drug monopolization, staggering inflation that seems weaponized in weight and scope, how 10% of the global population is responsible for nearly 48% of global carbon emissions, the horrifying cost of inequality in human lives, and more, one can’t deny there’s something decidedly broken,” and this brokenness has led to declining hope and happiness around the world.

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“Despair” by Xristopher Bland

  • In 2021, Gallup reported, “Global hope and happiness are decreasing around the world,” and “fears of upcoming economic difficulties remain high and steadily growing.”
  • In May 2022, Statistics Canada reported, “The proportion of Canadians reporting a hopeful outlook on the future is substantially lower compared with 5 to 6 years ago.”
  • According to a June 2022 report by Oracle, 45% of people have not felt true happiness for over two years, and 25% don’t know how or have forgotten what it means to feel truly happy.

As powerless, disenfranchised, or cast out as many may understandably feel because of the current world state, Xris points out what others have said before. “The world that we know is not the world we can know”—the central message of his indie music release. “One simple act—even saying no to something that doesn’t serve you—helps change the world because even the smallest of stones cast into an ocean causes ripples, and that’s what this indie music release is. It’s a ripple that moves to the language of repair and healing by calling out the deceptions that separate and humble us, the orchestrations of conflict, and the noise that fragments our innate knowing of who we really are and can be. It’s a reawakening call to equity, equality, and peace.”

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“Unyielding Light” by Xristopher Bland

“This record was interesting for me,” says vocalist Alicia Ambrosia. “The lyrics reminded me of things I struggle with—society’s endless striving, remembering my nature, and what I’m truly here for.”

“‘The World That We Know’ is a powerful yet mysterious piece that journeys from entrapment to freedom,” says songwriter-musician Mac Cole (Monkeys Bridge, Dissemblers), who worked with Xris and Alicia at Royal City Studios (RCS) to engineer recordings that captured their combined vocal vision. “Alicia was amazing,” says Mac. “We spent hours dissecting the message in each line and matching it with the dynamics of her voice.”

Recording - The World That We Know

In the studio recording “The World That We Know”

Similarly, Xris says, “Alicia blew me away. I had an initial basic idea of how I felt the vocals could go but she brought the song alive in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. Her dynamics, phrasing, and emotion are the voice of this song and the collective voice it represents.”

“The World That We Know” also reflects trust in action. When Xris initially approached Mac with the idea of recording a song, Mac recommended Alicia for vocals, having heard her rehearsing at Royal City Studios and at a few RCS open mic events. Xris had never heard Alicia, but trusted Mac’s recommendation just as he trusted the feeling that she would be perfect for the song, and after hearing Alicia’s first demo version of the vocals, he understood how well-founded the guidance of trust had been.

The collaborative and supportive environment found at RCS also contributed to the recording of the indie music release. “We didn’t keep the studio door closed during recordings,” says Xris. “We kept it open—literally—for anyone who wanted to listen and contribute feedback,” which included the engineering input, support, and assistance of RCS owner Jim Duffield. “We even kept the studio door open when I previewed the music video—a multi-layered art and lyric video that took months of editing to capture the feeling of the song and flow the visuals with the music like a dance.”

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Screen shot from “The World That We Know” music video

Mixed and mastered by Alastair Sims (Barenaked Ladies, The Trews, Arkells), “The World That We Know” is the first indie music release distributed by RCS Records and reflects the inclusive and accessible nature of Royal City Studios. “RCS has the perfect environment for any type of recording,” says Mac, “and is a diamond in the rough for the good people of Guelph to discover.”

“Recording at RCS is wonderful,” adds Alicia. “The feedback and expertise from Xris, Jim, and Mac has been exactly what I need. I really enjoy how relaxed, accommodating, and helpful everyone is.”

“The people and environment of Royal City Studios certainly reflect what this song is encouraging,” adds Xris. “Working cooperatively, openly, and in support of each other in an inclusive and accessible environment can create amazing and unexpected things, and people have evidenced that they still value this vision. When RCS was at risk of closing in 2022, for example, because of the pandemic economic hammering that saw many area music facilities permanently close, the community outpouring of support to help keep RCS open was incredible. Yet music facilities remain at risk because they’re under the same thumb of inflation and the looming threat of a recession as most of us are. So, as a small effort to help keep RCS open for artists, I’m donating 25% of all Bandcamp downloads of “The World That We Know” to help strengthen RCS, and yes. There are those who say digital downloads are dead, but if this is the current story, we’re all certainly in a position to write a new story for ourselves.”

As a new indie music project, Paradox Arcade (operating much the same as Enigma or Delerium) is also an art project because art and music have long been intertwined for Xris.

As the creator of the cover art for “The World That We Know,” Xris is a self-taught digital artist who created the cover art for guitarist Dylan Hennessy’s 2019 indie music EP Luminil and the follow-up 2022 single “The Watcher” (named after the title of the artwork). Xris has additionally created cover art for indie music artists Royal G Symphony, Mobius Radio, and Alex Bruce (Stars and “Home,” composed by Bruce to Xris’s lyrics).

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Album art created by Xristopher Bland

To help keep Royal City Studios open as a community music facility, Xris has also volunteered his time creating innumerable concert posters (and other RCS-connected promotional images) featuring indie music bands/artists like The Lizard People, Vintage Flight, The Bend, The Coywolves, and Mikalyn (to name a few), and designed the logos for RCS Records and the not-for-profit music organization Wholly aMUSed. Xris also helped promote the 2023 RCS fundraising event Winter Blues Day and played a small role in the 2022 RCS fundraising efforts that landed RCS in national headlines and ranked Guelph sixth in GoFundMe’s year-end ranking of Canada’s top 10 most generous cities.

>> Download/listen to “The World That We Know” on Bandcamp

>> Watch the music video

>> Listen to “The World That We Know” on Spotify or Apple Music, if that’s your thing

>> Follow Paradox Arcade on Instagram

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Some of the many visual elements used to create the cover art for “The World That We Know”