It takes both talent and courage to do something new, unexpected and totally different – especially for successful artists. But this is exactly what Nicholas Gunn is doing on his new album “Riding the Thermals”. His first album with vocals is a ground-breaking release, bridging the gap between Contemporary Instrumental of the 90s and modern electronic genres such as EDM. “Riding the Thermals” will for sure lift Nicholas Gunn’s career to new heights.
Make no mistake about it; what Gunn is doing here is challenging. Mike Oldfield once tried to make a chill album; “Tr3s Lunas” (2002). It is a nice enough release and it matched the computer game it was made for (“Music VR”), but it is definitely not chill. In that sense it was totally flawed. Listening to “Riding the Thermal”, it is apparent that Gunn has done his homework and understands what vocal EDM is all about before putting his name on it. Anyone who has been following his Limelght project already knows that he masters the expression of today’s hit music.
Riding the Thermals
The album starts with the title track. The song literally sounds like a warm breeze. There’s no other way to describe it. The lush pad and ultra-light synth leads are simply irresistible. It is a very memorable opening indeed, I could listen to it all day.
With “I’ll Always”, featuring vocals by Alina Renae, we get a blue print of Gunn’s new sound. It is tempting to say that he has replaced the flute with a vocal, but it is so much more than that. Gunn has taken the sound of EDM, made some creative adjustments and placed it in a landscape that is all Gunn’s. For a long-time fan like myself, who also happen to be a countryman of top EDM artists such as Kygo and Allan Walker, it is a musical déjà vu. It is alchemy.
“I’ll Always” is a slow and thoughtful love song that instantly connects with the listener, custom-made for “real” hit lists (not just the New Age charts). Next track is the instrumental “Be Tulum”. Travel has always been an important in Gunn’s music. Here we get a taste of the chilled atmosphere in Tulum, Mexico.
“I’ll Be Gone”, also featuring Renae, is a powerful ballad. Here the death of Marlon Brando becomes a symbol of changes on many levels. It is breathtakingly beautiful and has hit potential. It is a proof that Gunn is capable of doing almost any genre.
“Finding You” is a very interesting piece. It is nothing but a build-up. It slowly gains force and intensity, before it takes off like a giant rocket. Gunn is, as stated above, at his best when he describes a beautiful scenery. One of the best songs on the album is the next song, the gorgeous “Saint Lucia”. Here we get a breathtakingly beautiful view of the Caribbean island. The synths sound extremely fresh and clear. It truly is cutting edge material Gunn is serving us.
The songs with Alina Renae are evenly distributed on the album. “Out There” is an emotionally charged song with a flute-like synth in the background. It really touches a nerve. With “Ibiza Sunset” the atmosphere gets a lot lighter. It is a genuine chill song, totally carefree and relaxed. At this stage the thermals transport us “Above The Clouds”. It is a nice piece with voice samples by Renea.
Gunn has saved the best for last; the amazing “Older” (see the above video). It is a story about how the love between “you and I” manages to stay the same in an ever-changing world. “Love will fight its way / into our hearts / not fall apart / another time, another place”. It is Renea’s best vocal performance, and a worthy album closer. The Russian trance artist Costa has made two wonderful remixes of «Older” (check them out on Spotify).
In conclusion: Some fans might say that “Riding The Thermals” is very far from the Gunn we have loved since the mid 1990s. But is it really so? Yes, his flute is gone, and the sound is somewhat different, but his expression is very much intact. His main topics are still nature and travel. With this release Gunn has managed to revitalize his artistic project, and, in the process, found the missing link between EDM and Contemporary Instrumental genres.
Score: 95/100 – See how I rate music here
“Riding The Thermals” will be released on 25th January. Follow Gunns homepage for information on where to purchase the CD.