COVID19 has turned the world upside down. But it has also had many surprising side effects, among them a renewed interest in the transformative powers of music. Nicholas Gunn’s upcoming album “Sound Condition” is a collection of 10 soothing and relaxing songs. “Music transforms every cell of our being and gives us hope, a sense of purpose and direction,” says Gunn, “reminding us that the connections we make with each other and our natural world are central to our happiness.”
Born and raised in the UK and a student of the Royal Academy of Music, Nicholas Gunn has produced and composed over 20 solo albums, along with countless other productions. For New Age music fans, Gunn is primarily known for “The Sacred Fire” (1994) and “The Music of the Grand Canyon” (1995). The album “Riding the Thermals” (2019) marked a new direction in Gunn’s music, with inspirations from electronic genres such as EDM. In my review of last year’s “Pacific Blue”, I wrote that: “Pacific Blue” is a new pillar in Nicholas Gunn’s discography, an essential release on par with his classics of the 1990s. The most striking is perhaps Gunn’s perspective; In the lyrics, we meet an “I”, a living, breathing human, that we all can relate to – and, on the other side, the enormity of the life-giving and life-taking ocean.” This duality of nature and creation is also very much a part of “Sound Condition”.
By looking at the cover with its beautiful, dark-ish artwork, we can sense what this is all about. The tree is an archetype in many of the world’s mythologies and symbolizes both Mother Earth and creation itself. There is something very threatening here; the tree is under enormous pressure. But it is alive, and some leaves are still green. The album opener is called “The Unfolding”. We hear Gunn’s custom-made Bamboo flute (pitched in D minor), and it is as if Mother Nature gets a voice. It is a breathtakingly beautiful melody, as the ancient-sounding flute and the hyper-modern selection of synths join forces – and the story unfolds. Gunn has always been a storyteller, and “Sound Condition” is no exception. The only difference is that he is getting more and more in tune with recent events.
“Shine” starts with the sound of crickets (like many of the tracks on this album). The piece is illuminated by a fantastic electric guitar and matching synth leads; It is a soundscape you could spend your day in. Notice the somewhat abrupt ending, which sets the stage for the next song, the first of four songs that feature Alina Renae’s wonderful vocal. “Angels” is yet another fine example of Gunn’s impressive grasp on EDM. Also, notice the passionate and inspired lyrics. As implied by the title, it is a song about angels coming to us in our hour of need.
The angelic presence is also very much there on the title track. This is an album about going back to basics – and, in a sense, that the mess we have been experiencing over the last year or so is a result of our culture being out of balance. “Sound Condition” has a well-made and enjoyable ambient melody that keeps evolving for 4 minutes and 30 seconds. It has just the right amount of feel-good and seriousness. Bravo!
“My Body Is A Temple” is the heart and soul of this album. How we treat ourselves is reflected in the way we treat others. The gorgeous bamboo flute is back, proving once again that Nicholas Gunn is the finest flutist in this genre. The EDM label doesn’t change that one bit, and old fans will feel right at home. The synth backdrop, too, is breathtakingly beautiful, including some intricate layers of textures.
“Broken”, again featuring Renae, is the kind of melodies that only Gunn can make. The melancholy is knee-deep, yet there is a resilience here that guides us out of the depression. There is a semantic – and real! – difference between feeling broken and actually being broken. Taking about semantics, the next piece is called “Language”. It contains trance leads and a gentle piano. Needless to say, it is a very expressive piece. Next out is “Just Us”, a slow romantic ballad with a reflective edge. What does it mean to love somebody? And how do we find time to be “just us”? Any couple can relate to that train of thought.
For New Age music fans, “Flow” is a true gift. Its enigmatic ambiance is both haunting and comforting. The larger-than-life synth arrangement, bamboo flute, and shamanic drums sound amazing. When the female opera singer and choir comes on, we know that we have reached our destination. “The Promise” thoughtfully concludes the album. We are dealing with a promise that has multiple meanings and levels. It seems certain; it is the age-old story where both parties – the You and the I – are to blame.
In conclusion: “Sound Condition” is a fabulous addition to Nicholas Gunn’s discography! It is a timely release that soothes the Covid19 era psyche and shows how music plays a vital role on the road towards a more sustainable tomorrow. It offers a magnificent soundscape while waiting for the conditions to improve. Highly recommended!
For more information and music samples, visit nicholasgunn.com