I love finding an album that can be experienced like a hot bath. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of discovering a new piece of music that I know I’ll be luxuriating inside for the next few weeks.
Lunaria has made one of the finest examples of this type of album that I’ve ever heard. Naturally, I had to ask all about it.
I spend a lot of time talking about music that dissolves my sense of self, because it’s the kind of music that matters most to me. Sometimes this means aggressive, unpredictable sounds from the likes of Zs or later John Coltrane. Sometimes it means ambient dreamscapes from Stars of the Lid or Brian Eno. As it turns out, these disparate facets all reflect a common light.
As my musical exploration continues, I often find myself re-evaluating old opinions and prejudices, realizing that many of the sounds I once dismissed were important building blocks in history and my own tastes. One such maligned piece of past was my childhood love of what was called new age music. By the late 1980s, the term had acquired a bad taste, a culturally accepted dorkiness that could seemingly never wash off. New age was something to be embarrassed about, giggled at. Being young and profoundly insecure, I dumped my affection for the genre the second I realized it wasn’t cool, and there it stayed.
Years later I slowly began to realize why ambient music felt weirdly natural to me, why angelic, wordless vocals and huge synth pads struck something intrinsic, primitive inside me. These were further expressions of that consciousness-altering strain of music I’d briefly loved as a child. It reaffirmed some of the first things I remember loving in art.
All Is Dream represents a bold rebirth of the buoyant, cloud-like feeling that accompanied my first experiences with this sort of sound. Although the new age genre has returned in a small but potent form over the past few years, it’s always been veiled as something else. Lunaria doesn’t dance around the term, instead embracing what was once recognized as the core new age sound before the genre fell deep into the black hole of cool for decades.
Thanks to the wonderful Sounds of the Dawn, I was introduced to Lunaria by a surprise cassette arrival at my office. Having put out this year’s exquisite Hybrid Palms album and reissued lost Alice Coltrane cassettes, I was expecting great things from the label. All Is Dream lands well beyond those expectations.
Feeling a profound curiosity about the music and the man behind it, I contacted the artist, whose real name is Daniel Guillén. Over email, he explained to me the process behind the album, his own history with new age sounds, and his Buddhist approach to creation.
On his musical upbringing, Daniel traced a path that felt startlingly like my own memories. After studying classical music as a child, he listened to new age icons like Enya, Vangelis, and Jean Michel Jarre, as well as the types of earnest relaxation CDs filled with synth pads, pan flutes, and nature sounds, telling me how it affected him.
“I remember the atmosphere that this music created as pure and spiritual in a sense, and it aroused a sense of wonder and peace in me, before growing up as a big listener to many kinds of music, from indie rock, metal and prog rock to ambient, drone and psych folk and so on.”
He explained that, years later he rediscovered that blissful aesthetic while listening to modern artists like Panabrite and Dolphins Into The Future. I felt an immediate jolt of recognition, recalling how my own meetings with these artists resulted in an almost embarrassing blush of instant recognition and warm affection. These were sounds that I wasn’t supposed to like as a kid, bubbling into the present day, hot and attractive as ever.
“I thought: this is the music that made me dream in my childhood.” Guillén mentioned how he fell in love with golden-era artists such as Aeoliah, Deuter, Iasos, and Jonn Serrie, as well as contemporaries like Steve Roach, Lucette Bourdin, Mountains, Natural Snow Buildings, and Fursaxa. I kept nodding along, feeling a strange sense of deja vu for my own semi-obscured affections.
He went on, right to the core of what built his own sound: “From then on there began a clear aim to learn to work with synths and channel a music that in my mind sounded dreamy and joyful at the same time. It was really a natural process of rediscovering my creativity. My meditation practice and inner work had a lot to do with it.”
We got to the album itself, which the artist framed in heady but relatable terms.
“When I began to record the music on All Is Dream, there was a vague notion of my desire to say something about dreams and spirituality. I tried to connect with my inner light and play from there without trying to make something too complex or experimental, just playing the music that emerged naturally from within.”
He explained how parts of the album grew from post-mediation improv sessions, while others were more carefully considered sculptures of sound. “In these cases I simply tried to find the sound that was pleasant and exhilarating to me, working with different dynamics and effects to shape the sounds. I worked mostly with a Waldorf Blofleld and a Korg Wavestation, plus some effects. I realized I was connecting to the moods that emerge naturally from our natural state of being when the mind is clear: well-being, joy, peace, and wonder on the mystery and beauty of life.”
The music here is flush with vast, yawning chasms of melancholy synth tones and little, delicate patches of nature, of tangible elements that feel hand crafted and carefully placed. These songs ache with sensuality, humming with an affection for the experience of feeling a moment through all of one’s senses.
I used to wonder why certain music made me feel that way. Growing older did a lot to answer that question. As I’ve made peace with life, layer by layer, I’ve grown to love music that reflects my internal state. Still, it was fascinating to hear Guillén touching on his engagement with the world, revealing the deepest insight into why this music sounds the way it does.
“My Buddhist studies lead me to give the album a more specific approach: it was a collection of impressions about the process of existence,” Guillén explained. He’s He ended by stating the images aroused in his mind: “joy, wonder, and also a bit of dreamy melancholia on some parts of the journey.”
This picture kind of cleared a path in my mind, helping me connect a set of disparate personal elements to a clear shot directly into my earliest musical memories. I felt envious of his clarity and thankful for having had it shared with me. It’s more than okay to love music like this. It’s brilliant.
This is a perfect fit for anyone who enjoys Klaus Schulze, Steve Hauschildt, Tangerine Dream, and pretty much anything on the list of 32 Best Ambient Albums.
All Is Dream was mastered by Sean Conrad and wrapped in artwork by Ana Cabaleiro. Hear the entire album streaming right now:
Buy the album digitally or on cassette on the All Is Dream page on Bandcamp.